Tudjman, War Criminal

In the longest-running trial in the history of the U.N. war crimes tribunal, prosecutors are, for the first time, asking for life sentences, report the Bosnian news agency ONASA. On trial is Bosnia Croat General Tihomir Blaskic, charged with directing the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in central Bosnia during 1991-94, including the notorious Ahmici incident in April 1993 when Croat forces killed more than 100 villagers.

Prosecutor Gregory Kehoe said in his final word that Blaskic was party to a plan drawn up by Croatian political leadership to eradicate Muslims from Bosnia. Kehoe used testimony from President Franjo Tudjman's former close associates and quote from his books to illustrate Tudjman's territorial aspirations in Bosnia, writes Julija Bogoeva in Podgorica's news magazine Monitor. Observers now speculate that prosecutors are moving closer to inductingT udjman as they did his Serbian counterpart, Slobodan Milosevic. However Blaskic's defense lawyer Ani Nubilo, in an interview with the regional daily Slobodna Dalmacija of Split, said that although Tudjman supported the division of Bosnia both publicly and privately and wrote about it extensively as a historian, that does not constitute proof of war crimes. The Zagreb pro-government daily Vjesnik reports that a close adviser of Tudjman dismissed the allegations as "political pressure on President Tudjman and Croatia."

ONASA reports also told the U.N. war crimes tribune chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour, filed a complaint against Croatia with the Security Council for failing to cooperate with the tribunal's investigations of the 1995 assault on ethnic Serbs in central and southern Croatia, code-named "Operation Storm." Although the assault was celebrated in Croatia as a great victory, it spawned accusations of atrocities in the international community. Legal experts believe close scrutiny of Operation Storm could lead to war crimes charges against Croatia's political leaders, including Tudjman.