THE HAGUE | 09.09.2004.

STRUGAR TRIAL ENDS

The defense calls for acquittal while the prosecution proposes 13 to 15 years in prison. The trial ends with an address by the accused to the Trial Chamber

The defense bases its proposal for the acquittal of General Pavle Strugar on the assessment that he cannot be found guilty on any of the counts charging him with the shelling of Dubrovnik on 6 December1991 on the basis of the evidence presented by the prosecution. Yesterday, the prosecution presented its arguments for the proposal that the accused be sentenced to 13 to 15 years in prison.

The defense considers that the whole prosecution case is based on the untruthful testimony of Admiral Jokic, devoting the best part of its closing argument to pointing out inconsistencies in Jokic's testimony. Without the testimony of Admiral Miodrag Jokic, the defense contends, the prosecution case against General Pavle Strugar "does not exist at all."

Reminding that Admiral Jokic had pleaded guilty to the same crime and that he had filed an appeal against the judgment sentencing him to seven years in prison, Belgrade lawyer Vladimir Petrovic suggested to the Trial Chamber that Jokic and the prosecution shared an interest in "efforts to have General Strugar be found guilty for the shelling of the Old Town of Dubrovnik." Admiral Jokic and the prosecution, as he said, were "on the same mission, albeit with different motives". "Jokic wants to make sure that he gets a milder punishment while the prosecution wants to win a case for which it has no evidence”, Petrovic said.

General Strugar's defense also claims that on 6 December 1991, Dubrovnik and its Old Town "could have been targeted only by the artillery of the 9th Naval Sector," commanded by Admiral Jokic and "mortars of the 3rd Battalion, 472nd Brigade", subordinate to Jokic.

The defense contends that the evidence shows that there was a direct line of communication between Jokic and the JNA General Staff, i.e. Veljko Kadijevic, Federal Secretary for National Defense, bypassing General Strugar. Defense counsel Goran Rodic noted that the "parallel lines of command and two lines or authority had inevitable consequences."

The defense notes another fact indicating that Jokic had direct lines of communication with the General Staff: in December 1991 he took part in the negotiations with the Croatian side "as the representative of the Yugoslav Armed Forces, at no time representing the 2nd Operational Group or the 9th Naval Sector." "As the representative of the JNA, he signed the cease-fire agreement on 7 December," General Strugar's defense concludes.

At the end of the trial that lasted nine months, the judges allowed the accused General Pavle Strugar to address the bench. Expressing his "regret for all the victims”, General Strugar said that he was sorry "that he could not have done anything to prevent the suffering." He stressed that although he had been a soldier for 43 years, he "would never have resorted to force". The accused repeated that as soon as the indictment was made public he stated that he was not guilty and that he would come to the Tribunal voluntarily to prove it. “And here I stand before you, deeply convinced that you will make a right and just decision," General Strugar said.