Serbs Go on Trial in Taped Killing of Bosnian Muslims

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- The landmark trial of five Serb militiamen charged with the videotaped execution of six Bosnian Muslim civilians in 1995 opened in Belgrade on Tuesday.

The former Serb paramilitary members were arrested earlier this year and charged with war crimes after the execution video was aired at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, and subsequently broadcast by television stations in Serbia and Bosnia.

The five face up to 40 years in jail if found guilty. Serbia has abolished the death penalty.

The gruesome amateur footage, filmed by the Serb troops near the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, showed six Bosnian Muslims being taken from a truck, hands tied behind their backs, and lined up on a hillside.

Four were shot dead from behind, and the two others were ordered to carry the bodies into a nearby barn where they, too, were killed in a spray of machine gun bullets.

"There is no death sentence, but I hope justice will be served for those monsters," said Sajma Saltic -- whose brother Sadik, 36, was among the six executed Bosnian Muslims -- before she walked into the packed courtroom at a special court in Belgrade set up to deal with war crimes cases.

The footage, which caused public outrage in Bosnia as well as in Serbia, was first shown in June in the UN tribunal's trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was indicted on charges of genocide allegedly committed by Serb troops during the Bosnian and other Balkan wars.

The powerful images -- also shown at the start of the trial Tuesday -- were seen by some legal experts as the strongest evidence yet seeking to link Milosevic to the Srebrenica killings.

The Hague tribunal last week denied UN war crimes prosecutors their request to call the six members of the killing squad seen in the video, including one who is awaiting trial in Croatia.