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Zeljko Jovic Testifies in Own Defense, Claims Innocence

24. September 2015.00:00
Testifying in his own defense, Zeljko Jovic told the district court of Banja Luka that he saw dead bodies and witnessed the rape of a woman in August 1993, but didn’t participate in any criminal activity.

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Jovic has been charged with participating in the murder of five Bosniak civilians, as well as the rape and severe injury of others in the Gradiska area. Jovic was allegedly accompanied by Savo Veljkic, Zeljko Spasojevic, Sasa Lipovac, and two other unidentified perpetrators. Spasojevic is deceased, whereas Lipovac was found guilty under a second instance verdict for the rape and murder of Bosniak civilians in the Gradiska area.

At today’s hearing, Jovic said he was on a regular leave of absence on August 1, 1992. He said he went to Gradiska to rest and visit friends. He said he went to a cafe in the village of Liskovic which he heard stayed open until late.

“The cafe was full. I recognized Savo Veljkic, Maki Crnogorac, Drazen Nikic and Sasa Lipovac…Some time later there was some fuss and quarreling. Veljkic and Maki told the owner, ‘While we are fighting the war, you’re hiding Muslims,’” Jovic said.

Jovic said all of them left the cafe, while he stayed inside with a soldier who was sitting at his table.

“We heard shouting, banging, but also shooting in front of the cafe…They returned some time later and acted as if nothing had happened,” Jovic said.

When the owner told them the cafe was closing, Jovic said he asked the soldier to drive him towards Gradiska.

“He said he could only drive me a part of the way, as he was going to his girlfriend’s home,” Jovic said.

Jovic said he and the other soldier drove him to a house. Three vehicles were parked outside and the men from the cafe were there. He said the soldier told him to ask the men from the cafe to drive him back to Gradiska.

“When I approached the house, I saw two people lying on the grass. Since they were lying in awkward positions, I immediately thought they were dead. I was shocked. I wanted to go back, but I heard someone asking who I was. I introduced myself and went back, but Zeljko Spasojevic told me to follow him. I heard voices in the distance. When I approached, I saw an even worse scene. I saw two men from that group of people raping a woman,” Jovic said.

He said he ran away and walked towards the main road. He said he was afraid for his own life. He said the men from the cafe threatened him often. He said Maki Crnogorac threatened him often.

In her closing statement, district prosecutor Sanja Guzina said the evidence confirmed that Jovic committed the crimes described in the indictment. She encouraged the court to sentence Jovic in accordance with the law.

Jovic’s defense attorney, Slobodan Peric, encouraged the court to hand down an acquittal. He said the prosecution had proved that a crime had happened, but not that Jovic had committed it.

“It has been determined that the crime was committed by seven people, but only two people were blamed for it. None of the injured parties said Jovic participated in this crime,” Peric said.

The verdict will be handed down on September 28.

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Goran Obradović

This post is also available in: Bosnian