The prosecutor challenges the claim of defense witness Ratko Licina that the Krajina Serbs had not been preparing for war and had not wanted Krajina’s independence. To do that, the prosecutor used statements made by the accused Milan Martic himself and Jovan Raskovic, founder of the SDS

Defense witness Ratko Licina claimed in his testimony that before the war the SDS had not even thought about Krajina’s independence. The prosecutor challenged the claim by quoting statements made by Milan Martic himself. He showed a video tape where Martic explains that “the first attempt to create an independent Serb state” was in July 1990, at the Serb assembly in Srb. Licina did not agree with the accused who called him as a defense witness. He said that this was merely “Martic’s interpretation” of the event and that nothing to that effect could be found in any of the documents adopted at the Assembly.

Since the Serbs never wanted independence, the war in Croatia could not have been a consequence of their aspirations to become independent, the witness contends. As he says, the Croats are to blame for the outbreak of the hostilities because they bear the responsibility for the setting up of roadblocks in Krajina in August 1990. Licina doesn’t deny that the roadblocks were set up by the Serbs, but he sees it as a “spontaneous response” to the attempt by the Croatian forces to get into Knin with two helicopters. They failed, Licina, because the helicopters were forced to land by the JNA warplanes. He was then shown parts from the book by the then president of the SFRY Presidency Borisav Jovic, where the author says that no JNA planes took off that day. The witness said that he “can’t know what Jovic knew at the time”.

The prosecutor claims that the roadblocks in Krajina were part of a plan by the Serb authorities in Knin and Belgrade, supporting the claim by quoting the words of the then federal interior minister Petar Gracanin who “publicly took credit” for suggesting the scenario to the Serbs in Croatia. Licina saw Gracanin’s words only as the bragging of a politician who “wanted to boost his role”.

According to the prosecution, the roadblocks were preceded by efforts to instill fear in the Serb people by bringing up World War II and the alleged genocidal intent by the new Croatian government, painted as Ustasha. The witness replied that he and his political fellow fighters from the SDS called Croats Ustashas “only when they acted that way”; according to him, “there was more than enough” call to do that. He thinks that the Serbs had the right to recall the atrocities committed in World War II; in his opinion, this was not part of the preparations for the war.

The prosecutor then confronted him with an excerpt from an interview with Jovan Raskovic, the first SDS president, from January 1992, in which he says he feels “responsible for preparing for the war by stoking the emotional flames among the Krajina Serbs”, “lighting the fuse of Serbdom, not only in Krajina”. The witness replied briefly that Raskovic, “a tribune of the people who healed Serbs” had given the interview not long before his death; “it was possible he was disillusioned with something”.

Ratko Licina’s cross-examination will continue tomorrow.