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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Croatian rebel leader denies war crimes
Milan Martic with Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic
Martic (right) led the breakaway Krajina Serb republic
The former Croatian Serb rebel leader, Milan Martic, has pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes at the international criminal tribunal in The Hague.

Mr Martic denied ordering a rocket attack on the Croatian capital, Zagreb, in 1995, which killed at least seven civilians and wounded dozens more.

Zagreb
Martic is accused of ordering a rocket attack on Zagreb
"I am not guilty and my council will provide further explanation of why I did what I did," he told the court.

Mr Martic voluntarily surrendered to the court last Wednesday.

The indictment charges him with four counts of war crimes.

A former police chief, Mr Martic was the president of the self-declared Serb mini-state of Krajina, set up in 1991 after Croatia began the process of secession from Belgrade.

In May 1995, the Croatian army moved in to retake its lost territories. Prosecutors allege that in retaliation he then ordered the missile attacks on Zagreb.

Links to Milosevic

Mr Martic has said he is not guilty of war crimes, and intends to fight to defend the truth about his people.

He is named in the Croatia indictment against the former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, as being part of a joint criminal enterprise that planned to establish a Serbian state within the Croatian republic.

In the first years of the Croatian Serb rebellion, Mr Martic and Mr Milosevic - then President of Serbia - were close allies.

But the two fell out after Mr Milosevic turned his back on the Croatian Serbs and allowed Croatian forces to retake rebel-held areas without a serious fight.

Mr Martic is one of six out 23 war crime suspects who agreed to demands by the Yugoslav Government to turn themselves in to the tribunal voluntarily.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hauge
"Milan Martic looked relaxed in court"

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25 Apr 02 | Europe
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