Jail terms up to 40 years sought for Croat leaders

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The prosecution asked a war crimes court Thursday to impose jail terms up to 40 years on former Bosnian Croat leader Jadranko Prlic and five co-accused for the "ethnic cleansing" of Muslims.

Prlic, 51, is a former prime minister of the Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna that declared itself independent in south-west Bosnia Hercegovina in 1993.

He has been standing trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), on 26 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity with his former defence minister Bruno Stojic, 55, and four senior military officials: Slobodan Praljak, 66, Milivoj Petkovic, 61, Valentin Coric, 54, and Berislav Pusic, 53 since April 2006.

As the trial started drawing to a close Thursday, prosecutor Douglas Stringer asked the court to send Prlic, Stojic, Praljak and Petkovic to jail for 40 years each.

The prosecutor in one of the largest-ever trials before the ICTY asked for 35 years for Coric and 25 for Pusic.

All six men have pleaded not guilty.

The indictment claims they wanted to "permanently remove" Muslims from parts of Bosnia in order to create a "Greater Croatia".

"In the course of mass arrests and evictions, Bosnian Muslims were killed, severely injured, sexually assaulted, robbed of their property and otherwise abused," states a court document.

The aim was to "politically and military subjugate, permanently remove and ethnically cleanse Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats who lived in areas on the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina which were claimed to be part of the Croatian Community."

Charges against the men include murder, sexual assault, illegal deportation, and inhumane acts.

The six all surrendered to the tribunal in April 2004.

The defence will start making its closing arguments next week.

© 2011 AFP

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