Karadzic Trial Hears Its First Prosecution Witness

www.slobodan-milosevic.org - April 26, 2010


Written by: Andy Wilcoxson


Summary of the Karadzic Trial for April 13, 2010.


The first witness for the Prosecution in the trial of Radovan Karadzic was Mr. Ahmet Zulic, a crime-base witness from the Sanski Most municipality. This is the fourth ICTY trial that Zulic has testified in. He had previously testified as a protected witness in the Brdjanin, Milosevic, and Krajisnik trials.


Sanski Most is located in north-western Bosnia, between Prijedor, Bihac, and Banja Luka. Mr. Zulic is from the village of Pobrijezje 2 km to the north-west of the town of Sanski Most.


Testimony for the Prosecution


Zulic testified that on May 28, 1992 Mahala, a predominantly Muslim part of Sanski Most town, was shelled. According to Zulic, his bed-ridden father-in-law was burnt to death in his house in Mahala.


He said the shelling was carried out by, “The occupational Serb army, I mean the JNA, the Yugoslav People's Army, and Serbian paramilitaries of all kinds:  There were Seselj's men, Chetniks, there were some sort of White Eagles, there were some that called themselves SOS.”


He said the Muslims offered no resistance to the attack and that “Muslims were killed but not during the attack, after the attack ... [they] were killed when the infantry came in to ‘mop-up’, as they called it, including unfortunately my father-in-law”


Zulic testified that the predominantly Muslim villages of Hrustovo and Vrhpolje were also attacked by Bosnian Serb forces and that “more than 300 civilians were killed.”


On June 18, 1992 Zulic said that Bosnian-Serb police arrested him at his house and detained him in a set of garages in the cement factory in Sanski Most known as “Betonirka”. Mr. Zulic said he was detained there until July 7, 1992.


Four days after being arrested, Zulic said he was taken to a location outside of Betonirka, where he said over 20 men were forced to dig their own graves. He testified that all but three of the men were killed by having their throats cut and/or being shot. 


Zulic said that his life was spared by Nedeljko Rasula (president of the local Serb Crisis Staff). He said that Rasula had been his professor in school and that he had known him for over thirty years. He said that Rasula was present during the killings and that he intervened to save him.


During his stay at Betonirka, Zulic said he was beaten almost every night. When asked who beat him he told the prosecutor, “The guards, children coming back from school, people going home from the cafe.” He said the worst beating he received was after he let personnel from the International Red Cross examine him.


On July 7, 1992, Mr. Zulic said that he and 63 other detainees were instructed to board a truck bound for the Manjaca camp on a stiflingly hot day.  Before getting on the truck, Zulic said the detainees were severely beaten.


He said, the journey to Manjaca took several hours and due to the extreme heat and the lack of air and water a number of detainees died on the trip.


The witness was detained in the Manjaca camp for four months until November 14, 1992. While he was in the camp he says he was beaten and that he witnessed the death of other detainees in the camp.


As a result of the mistreatment he claims to have suffered while held prisoner by the Bosnian-Serbs, Zulic says, “I'm physically disabled.  And gradually the psychological stress and burden is catching up with me and getting worse, even now as I'm speaking.  I don't know what it's going to be like when I get back home because every time I tell it, I re-live it again and again.”


Karadzic’s Cross-Examination


Zulic kept a diary during the war (trial exhibits P00720, P00721, P00720) in which he neglected to mention many of the horrors that he now claims to have suffered while imprisoned by the Bosnian-Serbs. He explained these omissions by saying he wanted to “prevent his grandchildren from suffering”.


However, as Karadzic noted in the cross-examination, Zulic didn’t have any grandchildren until 1994. Therefore, Zulic didn’t have any grandchildren to protect in 1992 when he wrote the diaries that don’t contain the atrocities that he now claims to have witnessed.


It also emerged during the cross-examination that Zulic had spent 500 marks on an M-84 machine gun called “the Serb death” before he was arrested by Bosnian-Serb forces in 1992.


Zulic told the court, “Nobody armed me. I bought my own weapon.”


Karadzic asked, “You bought, for your own money, the M-84 machine-gun that is referred to as the Serb death; is that the one?”


Zulic replied, “Yes.”


Although the reason for Zulic’s arrest was never clarified in the court testimony, his procurement of the “Serb death” machinegun may have had something to do with it.


When asked to what extent he was aware of the war-time developments and events in Sanski Most Zulic responded, “I know about 90 per cent.  I'm not aware of 10, perhaps even 20 per cent.  I know the things I know, the things I heard over the radio, that I heard from other people.”


During his testimony for the prosecution, Zulic demonstrated that he knew all about Bosnian-Serb military and paramilitary formations in and around Sanski Most. However, when Karadzic cross-examined him he knew nothing about the Green Berets or any other Muslim paramilitaries in the region.


In Zulic’s witness statement (exhibit P00718) he stated categorically: “There were never any Green Berets in Sanski Most.  There was no Muslim army there either; it was impossible.”


Zulic’s testimony directly contradicts a book published in 1998 by the Sanski Most municipality entitled It is a Crime To Forget A Crime; Sanski Most in the War 1992-1995, written by Zilhad Kljucanin and Hazim Akmadzic (both Muslims). Excerpts from this book are already in evidence at the Tribunal as exhibit D92-4A in the Stakic Trial.


The book talks about how Ramo Krestic and Irfan Talic from Sanski Most re-established the Handzar Division (a notorious division of the Nazi SS made-up of Bosnian-Muslims), and it discusses the establishment of the Patriotic League and Green Berets in Vrhpolje where Zulic testified for the prosecutor that a massacre of 300 civilians had taken place.


The book says, “The collection of funds for armament began at the end of 1991. Weapons were intensively acquired during January and February of 1992 … the [Muslim] inhabitants of Vrhpolje had 300 armed people from the village, mostly younger people.  In parallel to the developments that followed, the occupation of Sanski Most, which will be discussed in a separate chapter, intensive preparations were underway for resistance.  Immediately at the beginning of April roads were blocked, armed guards were placed around the village, and especially patrols were formed to follow the movement of the enemy [Serbs] and control the entire region.”


When confronted with the contents of the book Zulic said, “I claim what I saw, namely, that there were no Green Berets.  As for armed men in Vrhpolje, I heard after the war that there had been resistance.  But as for Green Berets, I hadn't seen them.  I can't say what I didn't see and how could I see when we were very limited, restricted … Already in April our movements were restricted.  Vrhpolje is 15 kilometres away from Sanski Most.  Trnovo is on the other side of the Sana River, so I can’t really say what was going on there.”


If Zulic can’t say what was happening in Vrhpolje because his movements were restricted, how is he qualified to testify that 300 civilians got massacred there?


Throughout the cross-examination Zulic’s demeanor was hostile and it was obvious that he wasn’t taking the questions seriously. When asked a question about the Muslim Green Berets paramilitary unit Zulic said, “I never saw a green beret.  The first time I saw a green cap was when I went to Germany and I saw a customs officer, a German customs officer at the border crossing between Austria and Germany with a green cap.  And then that's when I said, Well, here we are, a green beret.  So that's something I stand by and that's something I'm stating, that I saw a green cap, and a green beret is a green cap.”


Confusing a well-known paramilitary group like the Green Berets with an item of clothing is plainly disingenuous and it’s an example of the witness’s credibility.


When Karadzic confronted Zulic with a JNA military intelligence document (exhibit D00005) dated March 7, 1992 (months before the alleged events in Zulic’s testimony) detailing the arming and establishment of the Green Berets in Sanski Most and in Mahala in particular (where Zulic said only unarmed civilians were present), Zulic didn’t answer the information in the document. Instead he launched into a diatribe against the JNA saying “as far as I was concerned it was an occupation force and it still is. And on the 1st of March those units were the occupying forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  They were an army belonging to another state because Bosnia-Herzegovina was recognized on the 1st of March, 1991. (sic. 1992)”


As Karadzic pointed out, the document was not produced for public consumption.  This was the intelligence that the JNA relied on. It would serve no purpose for the JNA to mislead itself.


The summary of Ahmet Zulic’s cross examination will continue in the April 14, 2010 trial report.


Court transcript is available at:

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