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Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 14:49 UK

Croatian MP jailed for war crimes

Branimir Glavas in uniform (2007)
Branimir Glavas says the charges of war crimes were politically motivated

A far-right Croat MP has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for war crimes against Serb civilians during Croatia's war of independence in the early 1990s.

A court in Zagreb found Branimir Glavas had given orders to a paramilitary unit under his command to murder six Serbs in the eastern city of Osijek in 1991.

The former general was charged last year after the Croatian parliament partially lifted his legal immunity.

Glavas denies any wrongdoing and says his trial was politically motivated.

He blames the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), from which he was expelled in 2006 after clashing with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.

Immunity

During the trial, prosecutors accused Glavas, 51, of ordering members of a paramilitary unit to abduct, torture and murder six Serbs in Osijek in late 1991, when he was in command of the city's defence forces.

The civilians were taken to the banks of the Drava river with their mouths taped and hands and feet tied, then shot and dumped into the water, they said.

Pathologist exhumes bodies in Osijek (22 December 2006)
Some 20,000 people are believed to have been killed in the war in Croatia

Glavas was also accused of failing to prevent the killings of two other Serbs, one of whom was forced to drink battery acid before being shot dead.

Five former members of the Osijek paramilitary unit were also found guilty of war crimes on Friday and sentenced to between five and seven years in prison.

Glavas was not in the courtroom to hear the verdict and will not be placed in custody until his appeal is held, unless the Croatian parliament's privileges committee says he should be. A decision is expected soon.

The former general was first charged with war crimes in April 2007 after his immunity from prosecution was lifted by the last parliament.

However, in November that year he was re-elected - this time as a candidate for his right-wing HSSSB party - and temporarily regained his immunity.

Croatia's 1991 declaration of independence from the former Yugoslavia sparked a revolt by its ethnic Serbs, who were backed by the Serb-dominated federal military and Belgrade.

The war ended in 1995, after Croatian forces re-took Serb-held territories. Some 20,000 people are believed to have been killed.



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