The court hears testimony from Dr. Beneth Blum, one of three psychiatrists who examined General Strugar at the request of the prosecution in March and found the accused able to function, follow and understand his trial--despite his health problems.

General Pavle Strugar has a number of health problems but is able to function. This is the conclusion reached by Dr. Beneth Blum, an American expert for geriatric and forensic psychiatry who testified yesterday by video-link at the trial of the former commander of the JNA Dubrovnik operation, accused of shelling the Old Town in December 1991.

His testimony opened hearings on the competency of the accused. The hearings will continue tomorrow with the testimony of Professor Mathews, another member of the prosecution expert team that examined General Strugar in March to determine his competency. After him, the court will hear the testimony of defense experts. They submitted a report last December stating that the accused suffers from vascular dementia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and is therefore not competent to stand trial.

Despite defense demands that Dr. Blum testify in closed session, the Trial Chamber decided today that it is in the public interest to conduct the hearings into the competency of the accused in open session.

Although the prosecution experts confirm the findings of the defense experts concerning vascular dementia, the experts retained by the prosecution state that General Strugar's memory problems are mild or moderate and that they do not pose a problem for his ability to stand trial. In their assessment, the general understands the charges and the nature of the proceedings against him, is able to communicate with his lawyers, and can testify as well as follow and understand the testimonies heard in court.

During cross-examination, the defense listed several more of the general’s health problems - including kidney failure and neck spondilosis - but according to Dr. Blum, they do not substantially affect the mental capacity of the accused.

When the defense lawyer asked the same question three times - whether General Strugar is able to follow his trial "under the same conditions as a completely healthy person" - Dr. Blum replied three times, "Yes, he can."