THE HAGUE | 13.03.2012.

WHAT DID THE WITNESS DO IN SKABRNJA?

Former member of the Knindza unit and of the Benkovac Territorial Defense Goran Opacic has testified today in the defense of Franko Simatovic. Opacic contends that the JNA reports –identifying him as one of the perpetrators of the crimes against Croat civilians in the villages of Skabrnja and Nadin are false. Opacic claims that he and his men never ‘even hit, let alone kill any civilians’. The witness denied any ties with the Serbian State Security Service

Franko Simatovic’s defense case continues with the evidence of Goran Opacic a/k/a Klempo. In 1991, Opacic arrived at the special unit training center in the village of Golubic near Knin, run by Captain Dragan Vasiljkovic. Opacic claims that ‘regular’ infantry training was provided in the camp and that Captain Dragan was no expert at all. In Opacic’s words Vasiljkovic was just a braggart who spent more time on self-promotion in the media than fighting. Simatovic is indicted together with his former boss in the Serbian State Security Service Jovica Stanisic for the crimes committed by the police and paramilitary units in Croatia and BH.

The prosecution is trying to prove that the Serbian State Security Service set up the training camp in the village of Golubic. The witness on the other hand claims that the SAO Krajina MUP and the government provided the logistics support and that the special unit members received their salaries from the Knin SUP. According to the witness, the camp was established months before Captain Dragan’s arrival. Opacic said that Vasiljkovic left Krajina in August 1991 after a conflict with Milan Martic.

After he completed the training in Golubic, Opacic returned to the Benkovac police station. The witness left soon after, because he had clashed with Martic. Opacic went on to join a scout detachment in the Territorial Defense headquarters. The detachment was to take part in the JNA attack on the village of Skabrnja in Dalmatia in November 1991. The witness said that the tank that was to provide support to them was pulled out at the beginning of the action. The people in the detachment considered this was an act of treason and returned to Benkovac.

Simatovic’s defense counsel Bakrac showed a JNA intelligence report from 1992 stating that Opacic and his men entered Skabrnja and the neighboring village of Nadin one day after the attack and killed a number of civilians. The witness replied that it ‘never happened’. During the war, he and his ‘scouts’ never ‘even hit, let alone killed any civilians’. Opacic believes that JNA officers accused him of taking part in crimes because he had previously called them ‘traitors and cowards’.

Replying to the questions about his encounters with Franko Simatovic, Opacic said that in June 1991 he saw Simatovic twice in Knin: once in front of the police station and the other time in the street. Opacic was told that Simatovic was a ‘security officer from Serbia’. Opacic did not see Simatovic again until May 1997, when he attended a ceremony of the Special Operations Unit in Kula. They exchanged a few words.

Opacic claims he never was in the Serbian State Security Service. He ended up in Kula by chance, because his friend Zoran Rajic invited him to attend. Opacic had helped Rajic to set up an exercise plan that ‘the applicants’ who wanted to join the Special Operations Unit had to pass in the Tara training center.

The footage from the ceremony shows Opacic wearing a uniform with the rank of colonel. Opacic explained that he arrived as a civilian but was told that there was a ‘little surprise’ in store for them: Slobodan Milosevic would visit them. This is why Zivorad Ivanovic a/k/a Zika Crnogorac gave him a uniform with the rank to wear it. ‘I was thus a colonel for mere two or three hours’, the witness concluded.

As the hearing today drew to a close, the prosecutor started cross-examining of the witness.