Dejan Lucic, the first witness called by Simatovic’s defense, claimed that Captain Dragan Vasiljkovic had close ties with the Serbian Renewal Movement. According to Lucic, Vasiljkovic went to Krajina as a private individual, not as an agent of the Serbian State Security Service, and established a special unit training center there. Simatovic will spend the winter recess on provisional release

Franko Simatović u sudnici TribunalaFranko Simatović u sudnici Tribunala

Franko Simatovic’s defense opened its case today with the evidence of Dejan Lucic. Simatovic is on trial together with his former boss in the Serbian State Security Service Jovica Stanisic for crimes committed by the police and paramilitary units in Croatia and BH. The witness introduced himself as a journalist, photographer, politician, publicist, expert in geopolitics and novelist, an ambitious man dedicated to the progress of Serb nation, former member of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia who comes from an ‘old anti-communist family from Belgrade’. The witness said that in 1990 he joined the Serbian Renewal Movement, which was in the opposition, and a while later left the party.

Lucic’s evidence focused mostly on Captain Dragan Vasiljkovic. The prosecution alleges that Vasiljkovic was in charge of the special unit training camp in Golubic near Knin, with the logistic support of the accused. After completing the course, the trainees from the camp were deployed in other Serbian State Security Service units. In his evidence, Lucic referred to Vasiljkovic by his Australian name, Daniel Snedden. Lucic linked Vasiljkovic to the Serbian Renewal Movement and tried to picture him as a ‘free lancer’ who in early 1990s got together with the Krajina police minister Milan Martic.

The witness claimed that Snedden was a member of the Serbian Renewal Movement. In this capacity, Snedden travelled to the United States in late 1990 to collect money from the émigré community and ‘open the iron gate of American will to Serbs’ at meetings with the US congressmen. The trip was not a success and Snedden then turned to establishing contacts with the Krajina Serbs in order to prevent ‘another terrible replay of World War II’ and the ‘genocide against the Serbs’.

Lucic claims that Captain Dragan got in touch with Milan Martic and formed the Kninja unit with Martic’s help as part of the Krajina Territorial Defense. The unit, as the witness said, ‘was more of a morale boost than a unit of military importance’. As a result, Vasiljkovic grew ‘more popular than the patriarch Pavle and Slobodan Milosevic’ among the Serb people. To corroborate the witness’s claims, the defense lawyer Mihajlo Bakrac showed several reports of the Serbian State Security Service which state that the Service had Snedden under audio surveillance and monitored his contacts with Martic.

A phone tapping report dated 29 March 1991 states that Captain Dragan and the other person concluded that the Krajina leadership was ‘in a very difficult position’ because of ‘strained relations with Slobodan Milosevic’ who had ‘turned his back on them’ as had the Serbian opposition. In the conversation, Vasiljkovic says all these developments prompted him to decide to ‘give up on everything’ and go to Africa.

Lucic completed his examination-in chief today and Stanisic’s defense then began its cross-examination which is expected to end tomorrow. The prosecutor will then have a go at Lucic.

The judges have granted Simatovic’s motion for provisional release during the winter recess. He will use the time to assist his defense in the preparation of his case. Simatovic will be in Belgrade from 16 December until 5 January, if Serbia agrees to guarantee it would make sure the accused is back in The Hague when his trial resumes. The Chamber has invited the authorities in Belgrade to renew the guarantees they had previously offered to the accused before the Tribunal.

Jovica Stanisic didn’t attend the trial today because of ill health, but he had given his written consent for the trial to proceed without him. Presiding judge Orie said that the Trial Chamber had been told Stanisic wouldn’t be able to appear in court until the end of the week.