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Lelek: An apology on behalf of the people

16. May 2008.00:00
Addressing the Trial Chamber, Zeljko Lelek says that he was involved in the crimes in Visegrad and apologises to the innocent victims "on behalf of my people."

This post is also available in: Bosnian

Presenting the Defence’s closing arguments at the end of the trial for crimes in Visegrad, attorney Fahrija Karkin asked the Court to acquit Zeljko Lelek of all counts in the indictment, while the indictee apologised to victims, saying that he did not commit “any criminal offence.” The verdict will be announced on Friday, May 23.

“I can apologize to the victims on my behalf and on behalf of my people but my people and I can not be tried for what was done. I know that I did not commit an criminal offence and I never even thought of doing anything like that, as it would be in contradiction to my upbringing,” said Lelek, addressing the Trial Chamber.

The State Prosecution charges Lelek with having co-participated, together with a paramilitary group led by ICTY indictee Milan Lukic, in a number of crimes in 1992, including deportation, murder and rape.

Lelek said that he was “in constant conflict with Milan Lukic,” who threatened him by saying that he would kill him because he “had helped Bosniaks in those difficult times.” He also added that the closing arguments, presented by Prosecutor Bozidarka Dodik “hurt” him as she said that the indictee did not express regrets over the crimes.

In his closing arguments, Lelek’s attorney Fahrija Karkin said that, following an analysis of the evidence presentation process, he “considers that there is no sufficient evidence to pronounce the indictee guilty.” He also suggested to the Court to terminate the custody of the indictee “after it has pronounced a verdict of release.”

The Defence attorney mentioned all pieces of evidence, which were presented in the course of the main trial, claiming that the Prosecution witnesses’ statements contained “too many changes and contradictions.”

“The witnesses kept changing their statements. They all gave different descriptions of how their family members were taken away and the persons who participated in that. I claim that the statements given by Prosecution witnesses are inconclusive, contradictory and conflicting in relation to other pieces of evidence,” Karkin said.

According to Karkin, in the course of the evidence presenting the Defence faced problems when trying to obtain evidence and witnesses. He stressed the “charade involving two important witnesses – the Lukic brothers.”

“Those persons initiated all happenings in Visegrad,” the Defence attorneys said.

Several times in the course of the evidence presenting, the Defence of Zeljko Lelek made a request for an examination of Milan and Sredoje Lukic – two cousins who are currently in The Hague, awaiting the trial for war crimes committed in Visegrad. However, they refused to testify.

Reading the closing argument Fahrija Karkin mentioned the name of the protected witness, who was granted certain protection measures by the Trial Chamber. Only after a certain time, Trial Chamber Chairman Hilmo Vucinic asked him to use the pseudonym of S when he referred to this witness.

After he returned to the courtroom, following a fifteen-minute break, Vucinic asked the present media representatives not to disclose the data in public.

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This post is also available in: Bosnian