Guilty of war crimes, the two Croatian generals who led campaign of shelling against Serbs

A commander hailed by Croats as a hero of the Balkan conflict has been convicted of war crimes by a UN court and sentenced to 24 years in prison.
General Ante Gotovina was found guilty of a campaign of shelling, shootings and expulsions aimed at driving Serbs out of a Croatian border region in 1995.
The conviction was a blow to the Croatian view of its wartime generals as national heroes who reclaimed Croatian land from a more powerful Serb force.
Under guard: Gotovina, right, awaits his verdict in the courtroom of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague today
Under guard: Gotovina, right, awaits his verdict in the courtroom of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague today
Guilty: General Ante Gotovina pictured while he was a leader in the Croatian army
Guilty: General Ante Gotovina pictured while he was a leader in the Croatian army
Thousands of Croatian war veterans watched the verdict live on a large video screen at Zagreb's main square, and jeered and booed the ruling.
'We have heard the shameful verdicts of the so-called Hague court, but in fact a Serbian court,' Zvonimir Trusic, one of their leaders, told the angry crowd.
'The war is not over, it continues,' he said, as some 5,000 people stood frozen in disbelief, some crying.
Gotovina was convicted of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, deportation, persecution and inhuman acts, during and immediately after a lightning campaign called Operation Storm that seized back land along Croatia's eastern border taken over by rebel Serbs early in the Balkan wars.
Dozens of Serbs were killed and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.
Presiding Judge Alphons Orie in The Hague cited one witness who recalled finding his elderly mother and mentally ill brother shot dead after hearing a Croatian soldier say, 'I killed another one'.
The offensive is still a source of friction between Balkan neighbours Croatia and Serbia. Zagreb celebrates it with a national holiday, while Belgrade regards it as one of the worst crimes against Serbs committed during the Balkan wars.
Myth shattered: Croats react while watching live on a video-screen a verdict to the three Croatian generals indicted for events at the end of the 1991-95 independence war in Zagreb
Myth shattered: Croats react while watching live on a video-screen a verdict to the three Croatian generals indicted for events at the end of the 1991-95 independence war in Zagreb
In Zagreb, former Foreign Minister Mate Granic, who testified at the trial, criticised the verdicts as 'shameful and not based on evidence'. He added that the verdicts attempted to 'change history and the historic truth'.
Defence lawyer Greg Kehoe said Gotovina would appeal.
The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal judgment said Croatia's then-president, Franjo Tudjman, led a 'joint criminal enterprise' to repopulate the Krajina region with Croats after driving out Serbs. Tudjman died in 1999 while under investigation by the tribunal.
War crimes: Former Croatian Army General Mladen Markac, left, talks to his legal team in court before the verdict
War crimes: Former Croatian Army General Mladen Markac, left, talks to his legal team in court before the verdict
The court also convicted a second general, Mladen Markac, and sentenced him to 18 years, but cleared a third, Ivan Cermak, of all charges and ordered him released.
The judgment was one of the most significant ever handed down by the UN court dealing with crimes against Serbs. Belgrade often accuses the tribunal of anti-Serb bias since the vast majority of suspects convicted are Serbs.
Defence lawyers for Gotovina and Markac unsuccessfully argued during the three-year trial that crimes in the Krajina were committed not by Croatian armed forces and special police, but by Croats exacting revenge on Serbs who forced them from their homes years earlier.
 
 
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