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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 14:02 GMT
Croat suspect denies war crimes
Gen Ante Gotovina appears in court
Gen Ante Gotovina was the tribunal's third-most-wanted suspect
Croatian war crimes suspect General Ante Gotovina has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes at the Hague tribunal.

He was transferred there on Saturday from Spain, where he was arrested last Wednesday, after four years on the run.

He is charged with atrocities against Croatian Serbs during the Balkan wars, including the murder of 150 in Krajina.

Tens of thousands of Croats demonstrated on Sunday in Split in support of a man some regard as a hero.

Indictment

The 14-page indictment was read out to the defendant in court.

"Gotovina knew or had reason to know that forces under his effective control were about to murder Krajina Serbs," it said.

CHARGES AGAINST GOTOVINA
Persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, deportation and other inhumane acts (forced displacement) - three counts of crimes against humanity
Other inhumane acts - one count of crimes against humanity
Murder - one count of violations of the laws or customs of war
Plunder of public or private property and wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages - two counts of violations of the laws or customs of war

"Gotovina failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the commission of such acts or punish the perpetrators thereof."

Prosecutors accuse him of belonging to a joint criminal enterprise with the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and others.

The indictment, dating from 2001, says they planned the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from their self-declared republic of Krajina in Croatia, during Operation Storm in 1995.

Gen Gotovina is charged with responsibility for the alleged murder of about 150 Serbs, persecution, and the deportation of thousands.

About 200,000 Serbs - many elderly - were forced out of the region during the offensive.

Nato search

Gen Gotovina, 50, was the tribunal's third-most-wanted suspect.

He was seized in Spain's Canary Islands.

GEN ANTE GOTOVINA
Born 12 Oct 1955
Fought in French Foreign Legion
Commanded Croatian forces against Serb forces in Krajina region, 1995
Early retirement, 2000
Indicted for war crimes in Krajina, 2001
Arrested in Tenerife, Dec 2005

The Hague's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, is pressing for the two top fugitives, Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, to face justice.

Nato troops stepped up the search for Mr Karadzic on Monday, searching property in Pale - the suspect's stronghold during the Bosnian war.

They searched the home of former St John Radio director, Dragan Stajcic, who Nato says is suspected of being part of Mr Karadzic's support network.


SEE ALSO:
EU launches Croatia discussions
04 Oct 05 |  Europe


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