In his statement to the OTP investigators former Croatian MUP coordinator for the Knin District Stjepan Buhin said that the looted goods were transported in the Croatian Army vehicles. Today however he stated that this was merely the rumor, adding that the goods might have been legitimately confiscated for military needs which were ‘substantial’ at the time

Stjepan Buhin, witness in the Gotovina trialStjepan Buhin, witness in the Gotovina trial

As the cross-examination of the former MUP coordinator for the Knin District Stjepan Buhin continued, Mladen Markac’s defense tried to prove that the investigation into the murder of five Serb elderly persons in the village of Grubori on 25 August 1995 was not suspended. Markac is indicted together with generals Ante Gotovina and Ivan Cermak for crimes committed during and after Operation Storm. In his examination-in chief, Buhin confirmed the claims he made in the statement he gave the OTP, that deputy interior minister Josko Moric and deputy commander of the special police Zeljko Sacic asked him to stop interfering in the investigation into the murder in the village of Grubori ordering him to go about his business of establishing public order and traffic issues.

When asked by defense counsel Mikulicic if he thought today that Sacic wanted to cover up the murder in Grubori, the witness said that he ‘had that impression for some time'. He believes that the special police deputy commander would 'make a mistake if he were to try to cover up the murder' because UN observers were aware of the incident. Buhin admitted that he was 'hurt' when his assistance in the investigation was turned down.

Buhin agreed with Mikulicic's suggestion that Sacic and Moric did not intervene to put a stop to the investigation, but to indicate that the investigation was to be handed over to the CID in Zadar. The witness didn’t know if the investigation continued. In his evidence as a prosecution witness, the chief of Zadar CID Ive Kardum said that he received no official notice of the Grubori incident. He learned about it from General Ivan Cermak's address in media, Kardum maintained. In the statement to the OTP, Buhin said that when he returned to Zagreb he heard from the MUP officials that the investigation 'was not done properly'. This prompted defense counsel Mikulicic to ask Buhin if he was aware that the investigation is still open, 13 years after the incident, at the county attorney's office in Sibenik. 'I don't know that. I don't follow that case any more', the witness replied.

Although in his statement to the investigators Buhin said that the Croatian Army vehicles transported looted goods, today he claimed those were mere rumors. It is impossible to prove that the goods had not been legitimately confiscated for military needs; those needs were 'substantial' at that time. The judge reminded him that in his statement he said the HV trucks carried everything that could be loaded onto them: from household appliances to widows and doors removed from houses. The judge went on to ask the witness if that meant that the Croatian Army fitted the doors and windows in its buildings. The witness corrected himself saying that such goods were transported by civilians, not soldiers.

An 80-year old lady, Draginja Urukalo testified today via video link from Zagreb. She described how the Croatian soldiers entered her village, whose name remained undisclosed, on 6 August 1995. They made her take off all her clothes except for her underwear and to play basketball with another elderly Serb, her neighbor. She was rescued by her grandson who was a HV soldier.

In the cross-examination, Ante Gotovina's defense counsel showed a statement of the witness's grandson Josko Siklic, former member of the HV Sixth Home Guard Brigade. He denied that his grandmother was undressed when he found her and that he heard her say she was abused. 'Aha, now he can lie', the witness muttered to herself.

The trial of Croatian generals continues tomorrow.