Analysis – Verdict in Salcin Trial Upcoming, Defense Claims Case of Mistaken Identity

19. January 2016.00:00
After a trial that has lasted more than two years, the Bosnian state court will hand down a verdict in the case of Dzevad Salcin, a former member of the Bosnian Army charged with crimes on Mount Igman in the municipality of Hadzici. The verdict has been scheduled for January 21.

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Salcin, a former member of the Zulfikar Detachment of the Bosnian Army, has been charged with cutting off the upper part of prisoner Dragan Vukovic’s ear in front of the Mraziste Hotel on Mount Igman in March 1993. He has also been charged with beating prisoners in the Mraziste Hotel’s kitchen during the first half of 1993.

The state prosecution has attempted to demonstrate Salcin’s guilt by examining 26 witnesses and reading two statements. The defense claims Salcin wasn’t on Mount Igman at the time of his alleged crimes, and that the perpetrator of Vukovic’s attack is another soldier who shared the defendant’s nickname, “Struja.” The defense invited 13 witnesses to testify to confirm these allegations.

Prosecutor Vladimir Simovic has called for a conviction in the case. The defense believes Salcin should be granted an acquittal, on the grounds that it hasn’t been proven that he was the same Struja who abused prisoners on Mount Igman.

The trial began in November 2013. Nedzad Hodzic was originally charged with Salcin, but the case against him was separated due to his poor health.

Injured party Dragan Vukovic died during the trial’s evidentiary proceedings. The state prosecution read three statements by Vukovic in which he said a man named Salcin, nicknamed Struja, cut off the upper part of his ear on Mount Igman. In his statements, Vukovic said soldiers who were present during his abuse laughed.

“Later, Salcin hit me on the head with a sneaker wrapped in bandages, saying I didn’t need bandages,” Vukovic said in one of his statements.

Vukovic’s wife, Vesna, said her husband told her the defendant cut off part of his ear with a knife. She said she found out later on that the perpetrator was Dzevad Salcin, nicknamed Struja.

Two Persons Nicknamed Struja, Defense Claims Mistaken Identity

Witness Miladin Borovic said he saw a man nicknamed Struja cut off a part of Dragan Vukovic’s ear.

“He took the knife, jumped [and held it] to his neck, and Dragan began to scream. He cut off his ear, and the other soldiers told him to cut off the other one too, to make them the same,” Borovic said.

Witnesses Vladislav Andjelic and Bogdan Mrkaja said Dragan Vukovic, who was detained with them on a premises on Mount Igman, told them that Struja cut off his ear.

Andjelic said he learned Struja’s first and last name later on, and that name was Dzevad Salcin. Kerim Celik, Salcin’s defense attorney, said that two people shared that nickname on Mount Igman. In response, Andjelic said he didn’t know Struja, and couldn’t claim that the defendant was guilty if two people shared that nickname.

Prosecution witnesses Zijo Causevic, Ekrem Madesko and Mustafa Andelija said they heard that a part of a prisoner’s ear had been cut off.

Causevic said he reported this incident to the commander of the Zulfikar Detachment, Zulfikar Alispago.

“Zuka [Alispago] asked for an explanation from Salcin, and Salcin replied with, ‘He won’t be with me in the lunch line, next time I’m going to kill him,” Causevic said.

Andelija said he heard that Salcin cut the upper part of Vukovic’s ear off with a knife, while they were on a plateau preparing a transporter.

Witness Atif Hadzic was deployed as a guard at a detention facility on Mount Igman used for detaining Serbs. He said he didn’t see anyone beating the prisoners. He said that while he was a guard, no one entered the facility to abuse prisoners and he didn’t see any signs of their abuse.

Protected witnesses A and C also gave their testimony at this hearing, but in order to protect their identities it is forbidden to publish the details of their testimony.

Salcin’s defense argued that the defendant was not on Mount Igman in May 1993, but in villages near Konjic.

Confession Followed by Denial from Salcin

Miralem Vrtic, a former driver with the 45th Mountain Brigade of the Bosnian Army, said he drove Salcin in mid-April 1993 in Grabovce. He said later on he saw him in the village of Memidzani.

Former deputy commander of the Bosnian Army’s Fourth Corps, Zijad Music, said members of the Zulfikar Detachment came to Dreznica in May 1993, and that Salcin was with them.

After this testimony, the state prosecution amended the indictment by changing the date of the attack on Vukovic from May 1993 to March 1993. The defense objected to this change in the indictment.

Defense witnesses Bedirhan Mesic and Nihad Bojadzic said they heard that a man named Husein Sadikovic, who was also nicknamed Struja, had cut off the ear of a prisoner on Mount Igman.

Bedirhan Mesic said commander Zulfikar Alispago’s driver, whose name is unknown, was also nicknamed Struja.

Mesic said Alispago arrived at the Silos detention camp with his driver, Struja, on one occasion. Mesic said when they left, he heard Dragan Vukovic saying part of his ear had been cut off by the person accompanying Alispago.

A protected defense witness said he saw Vukovic on Mount Igman, but didn’t see any injuries on him until April 1993. He said he heard about his ear being cut off at the end of the year.

Nihad Bojadzic said he knows Husein Sadikovic, nicknamed Struja.

“Sadikovic visited me in 1995. He asked me whether he should bring Vojvoda [Vukovic] because his ear was cut off, to prove that he was a soldier at Igman, I guess…I don’t know what the matter was. I heard from the soldiers that there was some pushing and that Vojvoda fell…I wasn’t well-versed on what had happened,” Bojadzic said.

The state prosecution filed a statement given by Salcin during the investigation as evidence that he admitted to one of the criminal acts he allegedly committed.

Testifying in his own defense, Salcin denied the statement, saying that he didn’t cut off Vukovic’s ear. He said he was undergoing serious therapy when he gave this particular statement to the prosecution.

Salcin said he was on Mount Igman only until January 1993, and briefly in March of the same year. He said he later heard that Sadikovic had abused Vukovic.

Expert psychiatrist Abdulah Kucukalic also presented his statement in favour of the defense, saying that the deterioration of Salcin’s mental health could have affected the statement he gave to the prosecution.

Salcin defended himself at liberty but spent approximately a year in custody.

Emina Dizdarević Tahmiščija

This post is also available in: Bosnian