In an effort to prove that the evacuation of the Serbs from Krajina was planned before Operation Storm, defense counsel Luka Misetic has tendered into evidence video recordings of former RSK president Martic and Veritas president Savo Strbac, where they say things that favor General Gotovina's defense. This has prompted witness Kosta Novakovic to distance himself from his former colleagues in the Krajina government. They were saying ‘incompetent and arbitrary things’, he said

Kosta Novakovic, witness in the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trialKosta Novakovic, witness in the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trial

Ante Gotovina’s defense counsel continued the cross-examination of Kosta Novakovic, former assistant commander of the Main Staff of the Serbian Krajina Army (SVK) today, and again tried to prove that in August 1995 the Serb population was evacuated from Krajina in accordance with the plans of the Serb leadership, not as a result of a joint criminal enterprise, as the prosecution alleges. Gotovina is charged together with generals Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac with crimes committed during and after Operation Storm in August 1995.

Defense counsel Misetic showed a segment from a program produced by the Serbian TV from Banja Luka, broadcast on 7 August 1995, where Savo Strbac, president of Veritas, says that Croats and Serbs don’t want to live side by side and that the Serb population was moved out of Krajina ‘to preserve the biological mass for what is to follow’. Unlike him, Novakovic feels that Serbs can live ‘with Croats, side by side with them’; as for the argument about the ‘preservation of the biological mass’, he says the person who said this was ‘not competent’ to say anything about that, in light of the fact that at the time he was ‘nothing but a secretary in the government’. He maintained that the evacuation plan pertained only to the four municipalities in Northern Dalmatia and one in Lika; their population was to be ‘temporarily relocated’ to safe areas within RSK.

The defense counsel then played a 15-minute video of an interview with former RSK president Milan Martic to a TV reporter from Banja Luka in the fall of 1995. Over a glass of brandy, Martic rattled off a number of claims which, if the Trial Chamber accepts them as true, might play into Gotovina’s hands. Martic said that Chief of Main Staff Mile Mrksic had pulled the Serb army from Krajina, in accordance with a plan set in motion by Slobodan Milosevic, and adopted months earlier in Belgrade. The fact that Mrksic didn’t want to defend Krajina, in Martic’s view, can be proven by Mrksic’s refusal to execute his order to shell Zagreb on 4 August; the order specified that the attack should be carried out in the evening, when the Croatian TV declared the all-clear and called the people to leave their shelters.

Kosta Novakovic distanced himself from the claims made by his former president, saying they were ‘arbitrary’; he was amazed by the ‘obsession with Zagreb’ and the animosity towards Mrksic. The witness is not challenging the claim that Martic ‘proposed’ a rocket attack on Zagreb. Mrksic and the witness ‘exchanged looks’, he said, and didn’t say anything. Martic's ‘proposal’ followed three months after seven civilians were killed and some 200 wounded in the two attacks on Zagreb, some ten days after the ICTY issued an indictment against him for the crime. In October 2008 Martic’s 35-year prison sentence was confirmed on appeal. He was found guilty of the attack on Zagreb and a number of other crimes against the Croat civilians in Krajina.

Kosta Novakovic’s cross-examination will be completed on Monday.