CULTURE MINISTER TESTIFIES IN PRIME MINISTER’S DEFENSE
Former minister of culture and religion contends that Hadzic’s government didn’t have any authority over the military and the Territorial Defense. According to the witness, the government had powers similar to those of the local communes: they dealt with social welfare issues and couldn’t influence the events in the field
The defense case of Goran Hadzic, former prime minister of the SAO Eastern Slavonia, continued with the evidence of Borivoje Milinkovic. The witness was the minister of culture and religion in Hadzic’s government. Milinkovic’s testimony is based on the statement he gave to the OTP investigators in 2003. Today, Milinkovic made some changes to his statement.
In the statement, Milinkovic said that he had lived in Dalj and that he had taken part, ‘the way I could’, in the attack of the Serb forces on Dalj on 1 August 1991. Milinkovic’s contribution amounted to ‘unwittingly’ driving a truck full of arms to Dalj. As a musician, he was opposed to violence, Milinkovic noted, and he helped to bury those killed in the attack in the Catholic cemetery.
Milinkovic also said that the ‘appointment of Goran Hadzic as the president of the Republic of Serbian Krajina indicated that he had some contacts in Serbia’. As far as Milinkovic knew, Hadzic didn’t favor the policy aimed at moving citizens out of the area. The government treated everybody equally and didn’t favor the evacuation of Croats, Milinkovic noted. In his statement Milinkovic also spoke about Hadzic’s visits to Milosevic ‘while there was pressure to sign Vance’s Plan’. Hadzic looked as if he had been under ‘someone’s influence’, Milinkovic told the OTP investigators in 2003. Today, Milinkovic explained that he meant to say that Hadzic had been ‘scared’, but he did not say of whom or what.
Speaking about the gathering in Velepromet in Vukovar on 20 November 1991, Milinkovic today said that it was not a ‘session’ but a ‘meeting of the government’. Milinkovic is sure about that because the gathering ‘was not in any way like a session’: nobody convened it, there was no agenda and no minutes were kept. According to Milinkovic, the taking of prisoners to Ovcara and the Sremska Mitrovica prison camp hadn’t been discussed at the meeting. Finally, in the statement Milinkovic said that Arkan and his men secured the local priest; they looked ‘intimidating’ but were ‘disciplined’. As he was asked questions by the defense counsel, Milinkovic said that Hazdic’s government didn’t have any authority over the Territorial Defense and the army. The government’s powers had been ‘reduced to the level of a local commune; it could deal only with social issues’. That was one of the reasons why they couldn’t influence the events in the field, Milinkovic insisted.
In the cross-examination, the prosecutor tried to shed some light on Arkan’s role at the Velepromet meeting. According to the witness, Arkan arrived there with Hadzic. Today the witness explained that it was only his assumption. The fact that he had ‘seen Arkan and Hadzic together’ didn’t mean that they ‘had arrived together’, Milinkovic was adamant. The prosecutor then showed a statement given by a witness at the County Court in Osijek. The witness alleged that he had been detained and abused in Dalj and that ‘the Territorial Defense headed by Bora and Djordje Milinkovic was responsible for all the crimes in the village’. The witness claimed that he was not a member of the Territorial Defense staff. The cross-examination will continue on Monday.