According to General Gotovina's defense, it is 'illogical' to claim that the Croatian Army troops took part in the burning and destruction of abandoned Serb houses because at that time Croatia had problems finding housing for the refugees from other parts of country: they could have been put up in those houses. According to prosecution witness Philip Berikoff, the only explanation for this 'illogical behavior' could be the effort to prevent the Serb refugees from coming back

Philip Roy Berikoff , witness in the Gotovina trialPhilip Roy Berikoff , witness in the Gotovina trial

In the cross-examination of Canadian military intelligence officer Philip Roy Berikoff, the defense of general Ante Gotovina put it to him that the looting and burning of Serb houses in Krajina after Operation Storm were not perpetrated by Croatian soldiers but by 'bandits in military uniforms' and civilians bent on revenge. Berikoff countered this suggestion by repeating what he had said in his examination-in chief: that civilians participated in the destruction and looting together with soldiers and police officers.

Defense counsel Kehoe claims it would not be logical for legitimate army personnel to take part in the burning and destruction of abandoned Serb houses when the Croatian government could have used those houses to put up refugees from other parts of the country; the refugees were a major problem at the time. The witness had come to a similar conclusion in one of the four statements he gave to the OTP investigators, but today he added that the only reason for this 'illogical behavior' could be an effort to prevent the Serb refugees from returning to their homes.

Unlike Gotovina's defense, General Cermak’s defense didn't deny that Croatian Army troops had taken part in the looting of Serb houses. However, they focused on the intention of their client to prevent the crimes and punish the perpetrators. To prove this, defense counsel Higgins showed the court an article from the newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija published on 8 August 1995. In it Cermak says that 'there is no place for looters' in the Croatian Army. She went on to show a video recording of a press conference held in early September 1995 where Cermak says it is impermissible for the looting to go on one month after Operation Storm had ended, going on to call for an immediate stop to the looting. Berikoff noted that at that time he wasn’t following the Croatian media, adding that the looting didn't stop after Cermak's appeal; on the contrary, the looting continued throughout Krajina in September.

In her attempt to play down the role of her client in Sector South defense counsel Higgins reminded the witness of what he had said in his statement to the OTP investigators: the laissez-passer Cermak issued to the UN mission staff in the field was 'seen as a joke'. Berikoff explained that in some cases the soldiers and police officers completely ignored the paper signed by Cermak that the UN members showed them.

Since the Canadian intelligence officers variously described the accused Cermak in his statements as 'the mayor of Knin' and 'military commander', the defense today showed him a document dated 5 August 1995, where President Tudjman appoints Cermak as 'the commander of the Knin Garrison' in charge of cooperation with the UN mission, providing assistance to displaced persons and bringing life in Knin back to normal. The witness said that at the time Cermak was 'given many different titles'. Berikoff was not sure what his real title was, but he knew that Cermak was in charge of the entire Krajina Sector South.

Berikoff will complete his evidence tomorrow.