Milan Lukic’s defense has been granted permission to call Latifa Kurspahic as its additional witness. Kurspahic and her daughters are listed among the victims of the ‘living pyre’ in the Pionirska Street in Visegrad. The prosecution has allowed the possibility that the three names were mistakenly put on the victim list, but has rejected the defense allegations that the list contains a number of mistakes

Milan and Sredoje Lukic in the courtroomMilan and Sredoje Lukic in the courtroom

The Trial Chamber hearing the Milan and Sredoje Lukic case granted the request of the defense of the first-accused to call Latifa Kurspahic as its additional witness. The defense has managed to establish that Kurspahic, listed among the victims from the Pionirska Street, was alive, and contacted her.

The Trial Chamber at the same time rejected the defense request to call Latifa’s daughter Leijla because she was just four years old when the crime happened. Leijla and her younger sister Hasiba are also listed as the victims from the Pionirska Street. According to the indictment and the evidence of survivors, on 14 June 1992 Milan and Sredoje Lukic put some 70 women, children and old men in a house in the Pionirska street and burned them alive.

The defense of Milan Lukic asked for the suspension of the trial because they had allegedly managed to determine that 18 persons on the victims list were alive. As the defense put it, this ‘has shaken the credibility’ of the prosecution witnesses who ‘made up’ information about the victims who purportedly died in the Pionirska Street.

In its reply to the defense requests, the prosecution noted that it didn’t oppose the calling of Latifa Kurspahic. The prosecution agreed that Latifa, Leijla and Hasiba Kurspahic be deleted from the victim list for the Pionirska Street, noting that during its case the prosecution had already allowed the possibility that they had left Visegrad prior to the Pionirska Street crime. The prosecution however contested the defense allegation that there are as many as ten persons listed as victims who are still alive. According to the prosecution, ‘the similarity between the family names of the victims and of the persons the defense has been able to find in a telephone book’ was not sufficient to corroborate such defense claims. The prosecution noted ‘obvious differences between years and places of birth’ to support its argument.

The Trial Chamber accepted this argument and dismissed all other defense requests, including the request for the additional examination of prosecution expert demographer Ewa Tabeau and for an independent forensic investigation of the crime scenes and search for the victims’ bodies. The decision refers to the Tribunal’s rules which stipulate that the death of a victim might be confirmed based on the ‘testimony about the circumstances’ of the death; it is not necessary to find the bodies of all the victims.

The evidentiary stage of the trial for the crimes against Visegrad Muslims is expected to be completed by 3 April 2009. The closing arguments of the prosecution and defense are scheduled for 8 April 2009.