Milosevic's new defense witness describes how the atmosphere of fear was generated among the Serbs in Croatia and how they responded to the threats they received and the violence they were exposed to in 1990 and onwards
Through the testimony of historian Marko Atlagic, Slobodan Milosevic is trying to establish "a causal relationship" between the atmosphere in Croatia on the eve of and immediately after the first multi-party election in May 1990 and the events that followed. Those events are qualified as a "joint criminal enterprise" in the indictment.
In May 1990, Atlagic was elected a member of the Croatian parliament on the Croatian Socialists' Alliance ticket. Today he is a minister without portfolio in the "Government of the Republic of Serbian Krajina in exile". He also teaches "auxiliary historical sciences" at the Pristina University, located in Kosovska Mitrovica.
At the beginning of the testimony, he described how the HDZ landslide victory at the election was followed by "roast ox feasts". Alcohol flowed, songs were sung and threats were issued to Serbs, using language well-known from the Independent State of Croatia times. The new Croatian authorities did not react to that. According to Atlagic, this was evidence that "Croatia within its historical borders, without Serbs in it" was about to be resuscitated. Franjo Tudjman had been advocating just that since 1964, he added.
To corroborate his claims, Atlagic quoted statements – some known, some unknown – of the Croatian president, including the one that "there would have been no war if Croatia had not wanted it to happen", and that he was "happy his wife is neither a Serb or a Jew". He quoted a German diplomat who claims he had heard Tudjman say at a conference in Bonn in 1989 that "the soil in Krajina will turn red with the Serb blood". Atlagic quoted several statements made by Stjepan Mesic. In addition to his well-known speech before the Croatian parliament when he said "the task has been completed – Yugoslavia is no more", Atlagic quoted a statement Mesic allegedly made on 2 March 1990, to the effect that once the Croatian state is established, "all Serbs would fit under a single umbrella".
Apart from noting that all those were "notorious facts", Atlagic failed to corroborate those claims and others he made about the intentions of the Croatian officials - "the Ustasha revival", "Croatisation" and "purges of Serbs" from the police, ministries and schools, attacks on Serbian Orthodox churches, murders and blowing up of homes and businesses.
When asked by Judge Bonomy whether "such conduct on the part of Croats made Serbs to commit crimes", Atlagic first replied that "Serbs did not commit crimes" but then corrected himself, adding that "crimes were committed by all parties". The judge thanked him for the "very useful answer", expressing his hope that in his examination of the witness the accused would "at one point come to the indictment itself".
Marko Atlagic's testimony will continue on Wednesday, 22 February.