Witness says Mercept didn't command any unit at Pakracka Poljana

Croatian wartime police reservist Igor Mikola on Tuesday testified in the trial of Tomislav Mercep, charged with war crimes against Serb civilians in 1991, saying that as an advisor at the Ministry of the Interior at the time Mercep did not command any units at Pakracka Poljana in 1991 and that he did not see any prison camps there or arrested civilians.

Mikola, who was recently extradited by Peru at his own request to serve a prison sentence in Croatia, told the court that his unit at Pakracka Poljana had been commanded by then Minister of the Interior Ivan Vekic and not by Mercep. "Vekic was my commander in Pakrac and he communicated with us through Mercep, who could not give orders in his capacity as an advisor," said Mikola.

Men on the ground respected Mercep but I cannot say if they obeyed him, Mikola said, adding that in line with Vekic's orders, he was in charge of Mercep's security and followed him in all operations.

The witness said that he had not seen any arrested civilians at Pakracka Poljana but but he knew that there had been captured enemy soldiers there but he had never seen them. He said that he did not know if anyone had been killed at Pakracka Poljana.

Mikola, who had been on the run since 2005 when he was sentenced to five years in prison for involvement in a murder in Pakracka Poljana in 1991, also mentioned in his testimony intelligence officials Josip Manolic and Josip Perkovic, the latter of whom is standing trial in Germany for involvement in the 1983 murder of Croatian political dissident Stjepan Djurekovic.

He said that some people had been interrogated at Pakracka Poljana, and that Stjepan Kralj had interrogated them on Manolic's orders.

Mikola also said that Vekic had ordered him to investigate how it was possible that Aleksandar Antic arrested and interrogated people from Kutina, to which Antic told him that he did it in line with instructions from the Defence Ministry. "He told me that he got permission from Josip Pekrovic," the witness said, adding that he had information from "Serbian intelligence services" that Antic, "being one of their own, was moved to a safe location".

Asked if the names of Aleksandra and Mihajlo Zec, killed in Zagreb in 1991, meant anything to him, Mikola said that that had haunted him his whole life and that he had answered for it, but that he had nothing to do with it.

When asked who had to do with it, Mikola said: "This is neither the place nor the time, come to Lepoglava (prison) and we'll talk there."

Mikola turned himself in to the Peruvian police last year, asking to be extradited to Croatia.

He said in court today that he was on a hunger strike and that a knife had been planted in his prison cell. During the testimony, he asked for a glass of water several times, asking also for an appointment with a doctor and to be given a multivitamin drink.

He also asked the judge if he could guarantee him that he would make it back to Lepoglava alive. He claimed that he had had amnesia due to a car accident in Colombia.

After three and a half years of trial, the indictment against Mercep was amended in July this year. He is charged with having commanded a police reserve unit that unlawfully arrested, tortured and killed civilians in Zagreb, Kutina and Pakrac.

His indictment was amended to replace the charge that he ordered said crimes with the charge that he failed to prevent members of the unit which he was in charge of from committing crimes. The prosecution alleges that he agreed to his subordinates carrying on with crimes despite the fact that he knew that some of them had had problems with the law before.

Mercep has denied all the charges.

The next hearing was set for December 18.

Last update: Thu, 24/12/2015 - 00:30

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