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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Wartime Bosnian Croats on trial
Jadranko Prlic
Jadranko Prlic and his five co-defendants deny the charges
Six prominent wartime Bosnian Croat officials have gone on trial at the United Nations tribunal in The Hague for alleged war crimes.

They all deny charges of masterminding a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims during the early 1990s.

Jadranko Prlic, the one-time president of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Croat mini-state, is the chief suspect.

Correspondents say the handling of the trial - the largest of its kind at the tribunal - will face close scrutiny.

The charges relate to 11 months in 1993-94 when Bosnian Croats and Muslims - who were allies for most of the 1992-95 war against the Bosnian Serbs - fought each other.

The indictment against the men alleges that they drove Muslims and other non-Croats out of their mini-state as part of a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" to establish a Greater Croatia.

They used "force, intimidation and terror by conducting mass arrests of Bosnian Muslims who were then either murdered, beaten, sexually assaulted, robbed of their property and otherwise abused", prosecutors allege.

The other five defendants are:

  • Bruno Stojic, former defence minister of the breakaway Herceg-Bosna mini-state
  • General Slobodan Praljak, former militia head
  • General Milivoj Petkovic, former militia head
  • Valentin Coric, a former commander of Bosnian Croat military police
  • Berislav Pusic, in charge of prisoner exchanges

    All six deny the 26 charges.

    'Ethnic cleansing' on trial

    The men voluntarily surrendered themselves to the tribunal's custody in 2004, as Croatia sought to advance its hopes of joining the European Union.

    Because they complied with the tribunal's conditions, they were allowed to remain at liberty while waiting for their trial.

    However, they will remain in custody for the duration of the trial, which could last several years, the BBC's South-East Europe analyst Gabriel Partos says.

    This is the first time so many accused have been tried together so there is likely to be much more evidence presented to the court and more time spent in cross-examination, our correspondent points out.

    Previous trials involving three of four accused have involved less prominent people, with charges focusing on a single incident or location.

    This time, the entire project of ethnic cleansing by Bosnian Croat forces will be put on trial, our correspondent adds.

    Tribunal indicts Bosnian Croats
    02 Apr 04 |  Europe
    Croat generals plead not guilty
    12 Mar 04 |  Europe
    Timeline: Croatia
    30 Apr 03 |  Country profiles
    Country profile: Croatia
    13 Jul 03 |  Country profiles

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