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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

10 Plead Innocent To Hague Tribunal

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The top Bosnian Croat war crimes suspect and nine others pleaded innocent Wednesday to atrocity charges for using weapons, dynamite and torture to purge Moslems from a valley in central Bosnia.


The 10 Bosnian Croat suspects, who surrendered to the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal after pressure from the Croatian government, entered their pleas in arraignments before the UN court.


They include Dario Kordic, charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes for leading the Bosnian Croat troops who savagely drove hundreds of Moslems from at least 14 towns in the central Lasva Valley in 1992 and 1993. Troops under his command killed and tortured men, women and children and blew up their homes.


Kordic, 36, wore a dark suit and tie and sat looking relaxed and confident as the 13 counts against him were read. The others appeared stern and unmoved.


They include Mario Cerkez, Ivan Santic and Pero Skopljak -- indicted with Kordic on the lesser charge of war crimes for Lasva Valley atrocities -- and six lower-ranking suspects charged together with participating in a notorious massacre in the mostly Moslem village of Ahmici in central Bosnia.


If convicted, the 10 face up to life imprisonment. The tribunal has no death penalty.


No trial date was set. The suspects surrendered Monday for assurances of a speedy trial, and the lawyer for Kordic and Skopljak said she intended to make sure that promise was kept.


"We will do everything to try to make the court to begin the process as soon as possible ... we don't want to sit here for two or three years," said Jadranka Slokovic-Glumac.


Prosecutors and defense attorneys have 60 days to file any pretrial motions, and Slokovic-Glumac said she planned to do so. She did not elaborate.


Armed UN guards ushered the men in two groups from their cells in a maximum-security prison outside The Hague to the high-security tribunal trial chamber to enter their pleas.


The men stand accused of some of the worst bloodshed against Moslems in more than 3 1/2 years of war in the former Yugoslavia.


In Ahmici alone, over 100 Moslems were killed by gunfire or shelling. Every Moslem-owned house and two mosques were destroyed.


Kordic commanded the troops along with General Tihomir Blaskic, who is already on trial. The other suspects are Marinko Katava, Dragan Papic, Drago Josipovic, Vladimir Santic, Zoran Kupreskic and Mirjan Kupreskic.


Croatian President Franjo Tudjman used his strong influence in Bosnian Croat circles to persuade the men to turn themselves in after U.S. authorities and the World Bank put Tudjman and his government under mounting economic pressure to have them arrested.


By getting the suspects to turn themselves in "voluntarily," Tudjman was spared the political embarrassment of having the men arrested and extradited.


All 10 had proclaimed their innocence when they surrendered Monday saying they welcomed the opportunity to clear their names.