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10 June 2015
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Witness Describe Military Operation in Pocitelj at Turajlic Trial

Sanela Gakovic BIRN BiH Mostar
A defense witness at the Ibro Turajlic trial said he saw Turajlic, also known as Zelo, after a military operation in Pocitelj in 1992. The witness said Turajlic didn’t have a machine gun.
Ibro Turajlic, a former member of the Territorial Defense in Capljina, has been charged with killing prisoner of war Mitar Zelenkovic in the Pocitelj area in 1992. Zelenkovic had previously been wounded and received medical assistance before being shot.

Testifying before the cantonal court in Mostar, former soldier Edin Turajlic said he was with the Second Squad of the Territorial Defense during an operation aimed at crossing the left bank of the Neretva river in Pocitelj.

“The First Squad had left before us. When we climbed up, shooting was heard from the direction of the school building. I didn’t see Zelo [Ibro Turajlic] at that moment. When the situation calmed down a bit, I saw him. He carried a Kalashnikov, just like me. Nobody was assigned a machine gun in our squad. By the way, Zelo [Ibro Turajlic] was with me all the time,” Turajlic said.

Turajlic said when the situation calmed down he saw a dead Serb soldier in the area with a rifle and bombs next to his body. Turajlic said he wanted to confiscate them, but the defendant told him not to touch them, because he would suffer the consequences later.

Edin Turajlic said the machine gun assigned to Tarik Turajlic couldn’t have been used during that operation, because it was defective.

Ekrem Veledar, the former commander of the First Squad with the Territorial Defense in Capljina, also testified at this hearing. He said his squad consisted of about 40 soldiers, and Ibro Turajlic wasn’t a member of his squad. He also said he didn’t see him during the Pocitelj operation.

Veledar said Asim Lizde and Tarik Turajlic were assigned machine guns, but one machine gun wasn’t used during the operation because it was defective.

“At around 3am we began climbing up and arrived on a plateau in Pocitelj. An armed military formation laid in wait for us. The shooting began. Members of my squad separated next to the school building. I proceeded further, while the other part of the squad stayed behind. We went to the Buntic houses, where we captured some weapons, which we carried to the Veledar houses,” Veledar said.

The third witness to testify at the hearing, Edin Suta, said he saw the defendant during the operation in Pocitelj.

“When the shooting began, the situation became chaotic. Approximately half of the squad members stayed behind. More soldiers joined us later. When the situation calmed down, I saw Zela, Miro, Carli, Afan Torlo. The shooting began again. I heard Miro telling us to stay here. He and some other men went to reconnoiter the area, while Carli, Zela and I stayed next to the Muslim cemetery. At that moment the shooting began from all directions. We hid among some shrubs. We didn’t see Miro until the next day. We went back towards the houses,” Suta recalled.

Asim Lizde, who also testified at the hearing, said he was assigned a machine gun during the Pocitelj operation.

“When we arrived to the school building, they opened fire at us. A part of our squad proceeded, while the rest of us lied down. I didn’t want to shoot from the machine gun. I don’t know how long the shooting lasted. We passed by the school and cemetery, but the shooting began again, so we stopped next to the Klepo houses. There were six or seven of us perhaps, but Ibro [Turajlic] wasn’t with us,” Lizde said.

Adis Zuhric told the trial chamber that he was a member of the First Squad during the Pocitelj operation, but Ibro Turajlic wasn’t with him during that operation.

“When we climbed up to the Pocitelj hill, we walked up to the school building. At that moment we saw the silhouettes of two soldiers. A part of the squad passed by the school. At that moment fire was opened. Two members of the Leto family were wounded in the shooting. We hid behind a short wall. When the shooting stopped, Zekerijah - Kija led us towards the Veledar houses and then towards the Klepo houses. I didn’t see Ibro Turajlic at any moment,” Zuhric said.

The trial will continue on July 8.
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