BRITISH JOURNALIST EYE-WITNESSED OSAMA BIN
LADEN ENTERING ALIJA IZETBEGOVIC’S OFFICE IN SARAJEVO
www.slobodan-milosevic.org - February 3, 2006
Written by: Andy Wilcoxson
The trial of Slobodan Milosevic resumed on Friday with the testimony of Ms. Eve-Ann Prentice. Ms. Prentice is a British journalist who has covered the Balkans for both The Guardian and the London Times newspapers since the 1980s. Over the course of her career she visited the former Yugoslavia at least forty times.
Ms. Prentice testified that she was concerned by non-objective reporting in the Western media. She said that Western politicians and journalists presented the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in terms of good vs. evil. She said that Serbs were demonized and portrayed as evil while Kosovo-Albanians, Croats, and Bosnian-Muslims were portrayed as innocent victims.
Ms. Prentice made it clear that she believed that all sides had committed crimes and that all sides had innocent victims. As her book “One Woman’s War” makes clear she is not an apologist for the Serbian cause.
Ms. Prentice testified that the KLA waged a terrorism war in Kosovo throughout the late 1990s. She said that Kosovo fell victim to a cycle of violence where the KLA launched attacks and the Yugoslav security forces retaliated.
Ms. Prentice was one of the few Western journalists who was actually in Kosovo during the NATO bombing campaign. She testified that she spoke to hundreds of Albanian, Roma and Turkish civilians.
She testified that the Kosovo-Albanians told her that they were leaving Kosovo primarily because they were afraid of the KLA and the NATO bombing. She only came across one Albanian who told her that he was leaving because the Serbian police had told him to.
She said that the KLA was telling the Albanian population that it was their “patriotic duty” to leave Kosovo in order to make it appear that the Serbs were victimizing the Albanians and ethnically cleansing the province.
Ms. Prentice testified that she took measures to speak to Albanian civilians at times when Serbian police were not around. Her Albanian interpreter was a lawyer who worked for Ibrahim Rugova.
She testified that Albanian civilians were afraid to speak freely in the presence of the KLA. She recounted one instance in Kosvoska Mitrovica where she was interviewing a group of Albanians and they would not speak to her once a member of the KLA came within earshot.
During her stay in Kosovo she never witnessed any inappropriate behavior on the part of the Yugoslav Army or the Serbian police. She said that she saw non-Serb civilians enjoying a relaxed relationship with the army.
She testified that she had heard from other journalists that some people had been forced to leave Kosovo due to pressure exerted against them by Serbian forces, but she never witnessed any such incidents herself.
Ms. Prentice testified that the civilian population was justifiably afraid of the NATO bombing. She witnessed the destruction of civilian targets almost daily. She saw the result of NATO’s cluster bomb attack on Nis. She saw at least 30 corpses in the streets and interviewed several wounded persons in the hospital.
She also witnessed the destruction caused by NATO
bombing raids in Gnjilane, Istok (Dubrava Prison), Orohovac, and Meja. In each
of these cases the indictment accuses Serbia for the destruction.
In the case of Meja, the indictment accuses Serbian forces of organizing a massacre, Ms. Prentice spoke to several victims in the hospital and they told her that NATO had bombed them.
While she was in Gnjilane she did not see any evidence of the deliberate burning of shops and houses alleged by the indictment. All she saw was the destruction caused by NATO.
The indictment says that Serbian troops forced the Albanian population to leave Prizren from March 28th onwards. But Ms. Prentice said that there were a lot of Albanians in Prizren while she was there in May.
Ms. Prentice was bombed by NATO herself. At about 3 PM on May 30, 1999 she was on her way to Prizren. She was on the road about 8 km east of Prizren when NATO attacked. Her driver was killed in the attack, and a cameraman she was traveling with was blown into a river several meters away.
She said that the NATO aircraft were flying low enough that they could have easily seen the civilian cars on the road below.
Ms. Prentice, who has a pilot’s license herself, estimated the aircraft to be flying at about 2,000 ft. Because she was traveling with a cameraman she also has videotape of the NATO aircraft. She was ultimately rescued from the scene Yugoslav Army personnel who took her to safety and gave her medical treatment.
About two weeks after the bombing Ms. Prentice began to suffer health effects. She lost her voice. Her immune system weakened. She has had cancer twice since then, and the presence of heavy metals in her blood stream causes her to suspect that NATO used depleted uranium weapons during the attack.
NATO has publicly denied that it carried out the bombing raid, but Ms. Prentice’s father (who had served a member of the British House of Lords) received information from his contacts in the British military that NATO had indeed carried out the bombing.
Ms. Prentice testified that after NATO entered Kosovo a massive exodus of the non-Albanian population occurred. She said that the KLA, together with Albanians from Albania, went around Kosovo forcing the non-Albanian population to leave. She said that NATO did nothing to protect the non-Albanian population.
The most explosive part of her testimony dealt with an interview that she scheduled with Alija Izetbegovic in November 1994. While she was waiting in Izetbegovic's foyer both she, and a journalist from Der Speigel, saw Osama bin Laden being escorted into Izetbegovic’s office. Yes *that* Osama bin Laden -- the same Osama bin Laden who masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Needless to say this evidence did not sit well with the tribunal. Mr. Nice immediately objected and Judge Robinson cut off the testimony immediately declaring it “irrelevant.”
Milosevic tried to explain that the involvement of Islamic terrorists with the highest level of the Bosnian Muslim government shows that the Bosnian Serbs were fighting a war for self-preservation, not a war for some made-up “greater Serbia” conspiracy. Unfortunately the Judges wouldn’t have any of it so he was forced to move on.
Milosevic questioned the witness questions about the Markale market. Over the course of her work, Ms. Prentice spoke with people who had access to ballistics data on the blast. According to the information she received the blast did not come from an outside projectile. The blast came from an explosive device that had been taped under one of the tables at the market.
When she interviewed Lord Owen she asked him whether he had believed that the Bosnian-Muslim government planted the bomb themselves. She said that Owen responded by refusing to confirm or deny the suggestion. The Markale Market is significant because NATO used it as the justification to bomb the Bosnian Serbs.
Ms. Prentice testified that when she visited Sarajevo in 1994 she did not find the city under siege. She said that there was some shelling but not a siege.
She said that one day while she was at the offices of the Bosnian presidency a shell exploded near the house she was staying. She observed that the shell fell in a location that was surrounded by tall buildings and narrow streets meaning that the shell could have only come in from a steep angle, which meant that it could only have been fired from a Muslim-held position.
During her time in Bosnia she visited Pale. She said that she was surprised to find that a large number of non-Serb refugees were being given shelter there. Before she actually visited Bosnia she had believed what the rest of the media told her about the Serbs.
She recounted one occasion where she tried to convince Robin Cook to visit Pale so that he could see for himself that non-Serbs were living freely in the Bosnian-Serb capital. Cook, who was on a fact finding mission, told her that he would not visit Pale because he thought the Serbs were “monsters.”
Mr. Nice spent the last part of the day cross-examining Ms. Prentice. As I said in the beginning of this report Ms. Prentice is not an apologist for the Serbian cause. She wrote a lot of things that were critical of the Serbian side and Mr. Nice spent his entire cross-examination quoting every unfavorable word that she ever wrote about the Serbs. Ms. Prentice could barely get a word in edgewise.
However, it is worth noting that nearly everything Mr. Nice quoted from Ms. Prentice’s work was hearsay. It was mostly information that she had heard from others – not events that she had directly witnessed herself.
At the end of the day Milosevic was left with practically no time for re-examination. He accused the prosecutor of quoting Ms. Prentice’s work in a selective and misleading fashion.
The trial will resume next Monday with the continued testimony of Prof. Branko Kostic.
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