Radovan Karadzic claims that the Serbian authorities in Kljuc investigated the mass murder of non-Serbs in the village of Velagici and punished the perpetrators. Former prisoner in the prison camps Manjaca and Batkovic Asim Egrlic replied to Karadzic that he heard that some men were arrested; they were in prison for only 18 days. ‘If they had killed so many hens, they would have gotten more than 18 days’, the witness said
Asim Egrlic, former prisoner in the Manjaca and Batkovic prison camps, is testifying at the trial of Radovan Karadzic about the Serb takeover of power in Kljuc. Egrlic also described the persecution, torture and murder of Muslims and Croats in Kljuc municipality in 1992. On the eve of the conflict, the witness served as the president of the Kljuc municipal assembly executive board. Kljuc is one of the eight BH municipalities where the persecution of non-Serbs reached the scale of genocide.
The summary of Egrlic’s previous testimony at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik was admitted into evidence today. According to the summary, the Serb forces took over power in the municipality on 7 May 1992. Soon afterwards, the neighboring villages were attacked and the mass persecution of non-Serbs began. Non-Serbs were fired, their property was seized and mosques and other religious buildings were destroyed. The witness was arrested on 28 May 1992 and was first taken to the Stara Gradiska prison. From there, he was transferred to the Manjaca prison camp. The witness finally ended up in the Batkovic prison camp. In late January 1993, the witness was released in an exchange.
Prosecutor Alan Tieger brought up two incidents listed in the indictment against Karadzic: the execution of 77 civilians on 1 June 1992 in the village of Velagici and the execution of about 144 persons in July 1992 in the village of Biljani. The witness identified some victims from Velagici on the photos; their remains were recovered after the war in Babina Dolina, in Laniste near Kljuc. The victims were of all ages: the youngest victim was only five and the oldest was 93 years old. According to the witness, the bodies of the victims from Biljani were found in the cave called Bezdana, at a depth of about 25 meters.
In the first part of the cross-examination, Karadzic put it to the witness that the Serb authorities investigated the execution in Velagici and that some perpetrators were punished. ‘Yes, I heard about it, they were held in prison for 18 days and were then released’, Egrlic replied. ‘If they had killed as many hens, they would have gotten more than 18 days’, the witness added.
Karadzic tried to prove that the witness was not arrested without cause. As he claimed, the witness took part in the operation to distribute weapons to the ‘extremists’ in the Kljuc municipality. Karadzic corroborated his claims with the statements Serb investigators had taken from the prisoners in Manjaca. The witness dismissed Karadzic’s allegations, noting that the statements were taken under duress. The witness said that before the conflict the Serb Territorial Defense moved all the weapons to the Serb settlement of Ribnik and then distributed them to local Serbs.
Karadzic will continue cross-examining Asim Egrlic tomorrow.