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The parties filed their appeals with the third instance Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina after the second instance Chamber had sentenced Askraba in April last year to seven years in prison. Under a first instance verdict pronounced in December 2009 he was acquitted of all charges.
The Prosecution alleges that the sentence pronounced against Askraba is not adequate considering the crimes for which he was pronounced guilty, including the unlawful detention of civilians in “Barutni magacin” (“Gunpowder Depot”) detention camp and assistance in the murder of 80 Bosniak detainees.
“The measure for this sentence is probably parallel to similar cases. The sentence is appropriate considering the fact that he was found guilty of having commanded the detention camp, but, in our opinion, the fact that he assisted in the murder of 80 people was not not taken into account at all,” said Prosecutor Munib Halilovic.
According to him, this was not benign, but vital assistance, because “the murders would not have happened had Askraba refused to hand over the detainees”, although he “had both the means and manpower” to do that.
“The public may pose a justified question on what the purpose of the proceeding is, considering the sentence was pronounced for assistance in the murder of 80 people,” Halilovic said.
The Defence appealed the verdict, because it considered that the proceeding provisions were violated by accepting two new witnesses during the second instance trial, as well as due to the fact that the verdict did not explain why the Court determined that Askraba knew that the detainees would be killed.
“Prosecution witness Djoko Andric was a guard for two days only. How much can he know about this? He is an elderly man. When I asked him whether he knew the prosecutor, who had examined him two years ago, he said he could not remember, but, at the same time, he testified about the events that took place 20 years ago,” Defence attorney Radivoje Lazarevic said.
He said that the indictee’s position in “Barutni magacin” is of key importance for the verdict.
“The verdict says that he was Commander of Guards. It further says that he partially managed ‘Barutni magacin’. There is no official document about his function. (…) Askraba made decisions about water supplies and distribution of guards. In no way did he decide about the fate of the detained people,” Lazarevic said.
Replying to the Defence’s allegations, the Prosecutor said that Askraba should have been sentenced even without the two new witnesses. The indictee himself then addressed the third instance Chamber.
“This is the third time I am saying that I feel sorry for those people and their families, but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it,” Askraba said.
The third instance Chamber chaired by Redzib Begic is due to render a decision concerning the appeals at a later stage.