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Defence lawyers at the retrial of Nisvet Gasal, Musajb Kukavica and Senad Dautovic argued in their closing statements on Wednesday that their clients had not committing war crimes against Croats in the central Bosnian town in 1993 and 1994.
Former Bosniak soldiers Gasal and Kukavica are on trial for committing war crimes against Croat prisoners who were held at the NK Iskra football stadium in Bujogno.
Dautovic, Bugojno’s former chief of police, is charged with participating in a joint criminal enterprise alongside members of the Bosnian Army and the wartime presidency which intended to illegally imprison Croats, among other crimes.
According to the indictment, over 300 Croat men were locked up in terrible conditions at the stadium without enough food, water or medical aid.
Kukavica’s lawyer, Fadil Abaz, argued however that his client had no power over the guards at the Iskra stadium.
“Kukavica’s only role was to… create better conditions for people in that prison. One of the examples, which witnesses talked about, was building a mini power station at the stadium so that they could have electricity in the prison,” said Abaz.
Speaking about how prisoners from the stadium were taken to do hard labour, Abaz said that Kukavica, as a regular soldier, had “no power or knowledge” where, when and how many prisoners would go, and that he only carried out orders issued by the 307th Brigade of the Bosnian Army.
“Speaking about difficult conditions in the stadium, we should point out that these conditions were the same for everyone, and that there had been a detention unit for the members of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina there as well. However, the majority of prisoners confirmed that people had regular food, visits and such,” said Abaz.
Kukavica asked the court directly for an acquittal.
“I hope you will see my human side. After the first trial, where there were almost 100 witnesses, I was acquitted. I hope I can finally return to my family after this verdict,” he said.
Dautovic also addressed the court, saying that he was a man who could be trusted and had actually protected Croats during the war.
“Croats with whom I worked in the past asked to surrender to me and I think I saved many lives then. I did not doubt that prisoners of war would be dealt with in line with the Geneva conventions,” said Dautovic.
The prosecution has demanded guilty verdicts for all three men, claiming that Gasal and Kukavica were “small fry”, but that former chief of police Dautovic was a “big fish” who helped plan and implement a criminal plot.
In November 2011 after their first trial, Gasal was sentenced to six years in prison and Dautovic to 13, while Kukavica was acquitted, but the appeals chamber quashed the verdict last December and ordered a retrial.
The verdict is scheduled for December 11.