THE HAGUE | 31.01.2012.

FRENKI WAS “AN INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, NOT A LOGISTICIAN”

Franko Simatovic’s defense witness claims that Franko Simatovic was in Knin in the spring of 1991 to collect intelligence relevant for security of Serbia. The prosecution alleges that Simatovic’s efforts were part of the assistance and support the Serbian State Security Service provided to the Krajina police

Franko Simatovic’s defense continued its case today, contesting the prosecution allegations about the role the Serbian State Security Service played in the preparations of the Krajina Serbs for the war. Many crimes against local Croats were committed in the war. Aco Draca, former chief of the Benkovac field office of the Krajina State Security Service testified today. Draca was appointed to this post in early 1991; he used to be an operative, based in Zadar. Draca tried to convince the judges that the Krajina Serbs got organized on their own initiative, without any influence of the Belgrade authorities and the two accused, former Serbian State Security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic.

The witness claims that the Krajina State Security Service was formed in early 1991, by a decision of Milan Martic, one of the Serb rebel leaders in Croatia. According to Draca, at the beginning, the Krajina intelligence service was ‘a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation’. People were expected to do their job without basic equipment; they didn’t even have typewriters. Draca claimed that the service was financed through voluntary donations from local companies and that it sent its reports only to the Krajina’s Serb National Council and Milan Martic. However, as Martic grew unhappy with reports of the service, he decided to disband it in late 1991.

In April 1991, the witness was told that a ‘special man, a high-ranking officer of the Australian army’, would come to Krajina. The man would set up police training in the Golubic facility near Knin. The man was Captain Dragan Vasiljkovic, whom Martic ‘praised with great enthusiasm’ at the time.

Draca was later told by the Krajina State Security Service chief Dusan Orlovic that ‘colleagues from Serbia’ had arrived in Krajina incognito. A man called Frenki was among them. He was staying in a ‘safe house’ and introduced himself as a journalist from Belgrade. Frenki’s cover was ‘soon blown’, however. The witness learned that he was in fact Franko Simatovic. He met Simatovic in mid-May 1991 in a restaurant in Knin. Simatovic told the witness that he had come to Krajina to gather intelligence about the situation in the field ‘relevant for Serbia’s security’.

The witness considered Simatovic a member of a ‘friendly service’ and exchanged intelligence with him. However, the witness claims that the Krajina State Security Service never received any financial or logistical help from Simatovic or did anything on his orders. Draca claims Simatovic told him, ‘I am an intelligence officer, not a logistician’. Simatovic also purportedly advised Draca to ‘keep an eye on Captain Dragan’ because the Serbian State Security Service had him under surveillance. The defense is trying to contest the prosecution’s case that Captain Dragan was sent to Knin on the orders of the accused. As the witness recounted, at the meeting Simatovic had with him a bag with a camera used by the secret service personnel for clandestine photography.

To prove that the Serbian State Security Service didn’t receive intelligence reports from Krajina, the defense tendered into evidence a report of the Krajina service from1991 which was addressed only to the Serb National Council and Milan Martic. The defense showed the witness a report of the local Territorial Defense which has Frenki among the addressees. The witness explained this had probably been done on Martic’s orders, to make it easier for Simatovic to gather intelligence vital for Serbia’s security.

Aco Draca will continue his testimony tomorrow.