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Prijedor four trial opening postponed one more time

30. January 2007.00:00
Defence attorney representing indictee was "not prepared" to cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

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The beginning of the Prijedor four’s main hearing has been postponed because Momcilo Gruban’s defence attorney was not sufficiently prepared to cross-examine the Prosecution witnesses.

“The beginning of the trial has been postponed until February 22, by when we should resolve all the problems and begin questioning prosecution witnesses,” Trial Chamber chairman Saban Maksumic said.

The decision was made after Gruban’s defence attorney told the Court that he was not able “to present a good defence”.

According to Dusko Panic, his defendant did not have an opportunity to use a computer to look at all the records sent to the Prosecution from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

“We did not receive all witness statements and records from the Prosecution. I cannot compromise my client’s interests. My defendant needs a computer in order to prepare the defence and hear the audio records,” Panic explained.

Prosecutor David Schwendiman noted that the state court’s procurement department had acquired the necessary equipment, which will be at the indictees’ disposal “by Monday the latest”, and noted that all the materials were submitted to the defence.

“The computers are of the latest technology and everyone will be provided with training to use them, if necessary,” Schwendiman said.

The presentation of evidence was originally scheduled to begin on November 23, 2006.

Zeljko Mejakic, Momcilo Gruban, Dusan Fustar and Dusko Knezevic are charged with the murder, beating, rape and torture of detainees held in Omarska and Keraterm detention camps during 1992.

According to the indictment, from May 24 to August 30, 1992 Mejakic was commander of the Omarska camp, where he “controlled the lives and bodies of more than 3,000 civilians”.

Secondary indictee Momcilo Gruban, called Ckalja, was guard shift commander at Omarska, and from May 24 to August 30 1992 Fustar was one of three guard commanders in Keraterm.

According to witnesses, Knezevic came to Keraterm from time to time, where he took part in the torture and beating of detainees.

According to the indictment, more than 7,000 non-Serb civilians were detained on the territory of Prijedor from April 30 to the end of 1992 and taken to the three camps.

Omarska and Keraterm were disbanded in August 1992, after a visit by foreign journalists, and some of the detainees were transferred to Manjaca and Trnopolje camps.

It is expected that most of the Prosecution witnesses will be persons who survived these camps.

The main hearing will be continued on February 22, when first Prosecution witnesses are scheduled to testify.

This post is also available in: Bosnian