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Belgrade Higher Court on Friday sentenced Joja Plavanjac to 15 years in prison and Zdravko Narancic to seven years for their roles in the killings of 11 civilian detainees at a prison in Bosanska Krupa in Bosnia on August 3, 1992.
Plavanjac was convicted of killing the prisoners and Narancic of helping him.
According to the indictment, the civilians were detained at a military prison that was set up in the Petar Kocic elementary school in the town of Bosanka Krupa.
Narancic, a member of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Eleventh Krupa Light Infantry Brigade, was a guard at the prison and let fellow soldier Joja Plavanjac into the school armed with a machine gun.
Plavanjac was initially looking for a Serb man called Predrag Prastalo, who allegedly killed his mother, but as Prastalo had already been taken into custody in Banja Luka, Plavanjac killed 11 Bosniak civilians who were being detained at the school.
That evening, Narancic assisted in the removal of the dead victims from the school. Their bodies were exhumed in 2006 from a mass grave in Zvecka in the Sanski Most municipality.
Both Plavanjac and Narancic claimed that Plavanjac’s father, Lazo, killed the prisoners.
Plavanjac and Narancic claimed that on the day of the killings, Plavanjac and his father Lazo came to the school and Lazo Plavanjac insisted on seeing the man who killed his wife.
Narancic let them in but told them that Predrag Prastalo had already been transferred to Banja Luka.
Joja Plavanjac and Narancic went to an office to confirm this. While they were doing this, they heard shooting, ran out and saw that Lazo Plavanjac had shot the prisoners, they claimed.
But presiding judge Mirjana Ilic said that the court did not accept the claims because they were “contrary to witnesses’ testimonies in which no one mentioned Lazo Plavanjac in connection with these events”.
Lazo Plavanjac died in 1999.
The case against the two defendants was transferred from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the indictment was issued in Serbia in December 2017.
Friday’s verdict was a first-instance judgment and can be appealed.