The first witness called by Cermak’s defense, Croatian general Franjo Feldi, was cross-examined by Gotovina’s defense counsel, defending the findings from his expert report that after Operation Storm Cermak was under Gotovina’s command, although he had gone to Knin at President Tudjman’s behest

Franjo Feldi, svjedok odbrane Ivana ČermakaFranjo Feldi, svjedok odbrane Ivana Čermaka

General Ivan Cermak’s defense opened its case today with the testimony of Franjo Feldi, retired Croatian Army general. The expert report about Cermak’s role in Knin after Operation Storm and the statement he gave to the OTP investigators in 2003 were tendered into evidence. Cermak’s defense counsel didn’t ask any questions, but Gotovina’s defense counsel Luka Misetic decided to cross-examine Feldi. Cermak’s defense presented its opening statement on 28 May 2009, noting that ‘the prosecution’s allegations about the command role of the accused over the military and police in Krajina are unfounded’.

Gotovina and Cermak are on trial together with General Markac for crimes against Serbs during and after Operation Storm. In the course of the trial so far, the defense teams have tried several times to shift the blame from their clients to the other accused. This time, the clash of Gotovina’a and Cermak’s defense teams was glaringly obvious, and was prompted primarily by a conclusion in the expert report that after Operation Storm Cermak, as the Knin Garrison commander, was directly subordinate to Gotovina, Split Military District commander. Gotovina’s defense argues that after Operation Storm Gotovina relinquished the responsibility for the developments in Krajina to the military and civilian police and focused on combat operations in BH.

At the beginning of the cross-examination, Misetic showed the witness a video recording of an interview General Cermak had with the OTP investigators in 2004. Cermak says that as the garrison commander he was not part of the same chain of command as Gotovina and chief of the HV Main Staff Cervenko. He was in constant contact with the President’s office. The witness explained that President Cermak had appointed Cermak commander of the Knin Garrison, and tasked him with normalizing life in town and helping the civilians and the UN monitoring mission. Although he claims the garrison was in formal terms part of Gotovina’s military district, Feldi says Cermak ‘didn’t get any instructions from anyone’; he was forced to use his own initiative in an effort to carry out the mission the president had entrusted him with.

If Cermak was subordinate to Gotovina, he was under an obligation to report to him regularly on the developments in the Knin garrison, defense counsel Misetic contended. When Feldi was asked how many such reports he had found in the course of his inspection of the documents for the purpose of writing his report, he said there were five or six of them but he didn’t know if Cermak ever gave oral reports to ‘his superior’ about the developments in the field.

Noting that the two accused generals were not part of the same chain of command, the defense showed a document from the time after Operation Storm in which Gotovina ‘requests’ that Cermak take some measures in Knin. When General Feldi was asked if it was unusual for a superior officer to ‘request’ something from his subordinate, instead of ‘ordering’, he responded by quoting a military saying, ‘Power orders even when it asks’.

The prosecution will cross-examine Cermak's military expert tomorrow.