Ex-Yugoslav army chief expects verdict in war crimes trial

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International judges will on Tuesday hand down their verdict in the trial of former Yugoslav army chief of staff Momcilo Perisic who is accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The hearing in the case of the Yugoslav army's most senior officer to be tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is to start here at 0900 GMT.

Heading the former Balkans country's general staff between 1993 and 1998, Perisic is being prosecuted for his role in the 1992-95 siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, the shelling of Zagreb by Croatian Serbs in May 1995 -- and the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995.

Bosnian Serb forces murdered some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

Prosecutors on March 29 asked for life imprisonment.

Perisic, 67, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges including murder, persecution on political, racial and religious grounds, extermination and attacks against civilians.

While in command, he provided personnel, weapons and logistical help to the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) and the SVK, the Army of Serbian Krajina in the self-proclaimed Serbian entity in Croatia, the prosecution said.

"He never personally killed anyone, he never personally set fire to a house in Bosnia and Croatia," said prosecutor Mark Harmon, but "aided and abetted those who did all these things".

"This form of participation should not mitigate his responsibility," the prosecutor stressed.

One of the main collaborators of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who died in his Hague detention cell in 2006, Perisic surrendered and was transferred to the ICTY on March 7, 2005.

His trial started in October 2008.

During 203 days of hearings, the prosecution called 82 witnesses, the defence 22.

Some of Perisic's former subordinates have already been tried before the ICTY including former VRS general Stanislav Galic, sentenced on appeal to life in prison in November 2006 for conducting a campaign of "terror against the civilian population" during the siege of Sarajevo.

© 2011 AFP

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