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Thousands protest jailing of Croat general

Thousands protest jailing of Croat general

Thousands of war veterans and other Croatians protested Saturday against a U.N. war crimes tribunal's jailing of a general hailed as a hero for driving out Serb forces in a punishing offensive during the Balkan wars.
The court in The Hague, Netherlands, on Friday sentenced Gen. Ante Gotovina to 24 years in prison for atrocities committed by his troops during "Operation Storm" _ a 1995 military offensive designed to drive the Serb rebels out a swath of Croatia they had occupied.
The battle sealed Croatia's independence from Serb-led Yugoslavia after four years of conflict with minority Serbs.
The convictions of Gotovina and another wartime general, Mladen Markac, dealt a blow to Croatia's self-image as a victim rather than perpetrator of atrocities. Croatia has always seen itself as a victim of Serb war crimes and portrayed Gotovina as a hero who helped defeat its more powerful neighbor, Serbia.
The war veterans and other supporters protesting Saturday on Zagreb's main square and other Croatian cities believe Gotovina is innocent and is not responsible for war crimes committed during the offensive.
"We are still in shock after yesterday's verdicts," said Denis Mladenovic, one of the speakers at the Zagreb rally. "They jailed our heroes who defended our country against the Serbian aggression."
The protesters chanted "Treason! Treason!" denouncing the Croatian conservative government, its prime minister and the liberal president, claiming they did nothing to save the generals from U.N. war crimes prosecution.
They displayed a Croatian and a U.S. flag linked with a banner reading: "Together in 1995." Croatia received U.S. support during Operation Storm, as well as throughout its war for independence.
Gotovina and Markac, who received 18 years in jail, were found guilty of murder, expulsion, plunder and other crimes against humanity. A third general, Ivan Cermak, was acquitted of all charges.
Operation Storm forced some 200,000 Serbs to flee their homes. Soldiers and special Croatian police roamed from village to village, killing some 200 people and abusing villagers _ many of them elderly, according to Friday's judgment.


Updated : 2021-10-24 08:01 GMT+08:00