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17 December 2014
News

Alibi for Indictee Bjelica

Dragana Erjavec BIRN BiH Sarajevo

Branislav Vukovic, a car mechanic from Niksic, says that he met indictee Zoran Bjelica at Slavko Pekovic’s in June 1992, adding that Pekovic owned a yard and grocery store. 
 

The witness said that, at that time Bjelica worked in the workshop as car mechanic, as well as driver, who transported fruits and vegetables from Podgorica to Niksic.
 
He mentioned that he knew that Bjelica had come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, BiH, as a refugee and that he personally helped him hide from military policemen, who mobilised able-bodied men in that period.
 
“I hid him at least 100 times. They collected all the men and sent them to battlefields. Had they found him, they would have sent him back to BiH,” Vukovic explained.
 
Second Defence witness Dragan Popovic said that he worked with indictee Bjelica as a driver in Niksic.
 
Popovic said that he used to see Bjelica every day in the period from June 1992 to June 1993, because they worked with a company, in which they did not have the right to taking one single day off. 
 
“I claim responsibly that Bjelica could not have crossed the state border and go to BiH over the course of that year. We saw each other every day. I guarantee that we were together every day in that period of time,” Popovic said. 
 
Testifying as the third Defence witness, Vojislav Bjelica, who met the indictee in Gacko on the eve of the war, explained that the indictee rang his doorbell in late May 1992 and asked him to help him and his family. 
 
“I admitted Zoran and his family to my house in Niksic. They lived at my place for a month until Zoran found a job in Slavko Pekovic’s workshop. He then rented an apartment. I used to meet him in Niksic during the following year,” the witness explained. 
 
Zoran Bjelica is on trial, along with Marinko Bjelica and Novica Tripkovic, for crimes in Kalinovik. The Prosecution of BiH charges them, as former members of the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, with having participated in the murder and torture of Bosniak civilians, who were detained in “Miladin Radojevic” school building in Kalinovik, in August 1992.
 
During the cross-examination all Defence witnesses confirmed that they did not know that indictee Bjelica went to the battlefields in BiH during 1992 and 1993, but they knew that he was registered by the Red Cross, from which he received humanitarian aid as a refugee. 
 
At this hearing the Defence of indictee Marinko Bjelica presented nine pieces of material evidence, thus completing the presentation of its evidence. 
 
Attorney Dragan Medjovic presented documents, confirming that the first indictee was a disabled war veteran and that he was wounded on August 3, 1992.
 
The evidence material also included minutes from examination of Prosecution witnesses by the State Investigation and Protection Agency, SIPA, and Prosecution of BiH. 
 
State Prosecutor Cazim Hasanspahic objected to the presented evidence related to the examination of witnesses, explaining that it was not clear to him what the Defence wanted to prove by introducing those pieces of evidence.
 
“Explanations of these documents are very superficial and generalised. There are no detailed explanations of what exactly they are trying to prove. I consider these pieces of evidence irrelevant,” Hasanspahic said.
 
The next hearing is scheduled for December 24, when the Defence of the second indictee will examine five witnesses. 

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