"Croatian President Franjo Tudjman recently awarded Blaskic a medal ........."

From .......... Associated Press

December 20, 1996

By JENIFER CHAO ....... AP Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- A U.N. court today rejected a Bosnian Croat's request to be freed before his war crimes trial, saying there were not enough guarantees that he would return.

Gen. Tihomir Blaskic requested his release after the scheduled January 1997 start of his trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal was postponed indefinitely to give prosecutors more time to collect evidence.

Blaskic is accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly commanding Bosnian Croat forces who killed and mistreated Muslims in Bosnia's central Lasva Valley from 1992 until early 1994.

Blaskic has pleaded not guilty. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.

Defense lawyers argued that Blaskic, who turned himself in to the tribunal last April, should be released since it was unlikely his trial will start before April 1997. A one-year pre-trial detention "infringes upon the accused's right to be tried without undue delay," his lawyers said in a pretrial motion.

Blaskic offered to surrender his passport and post a bail bond of nearly $636,000. Croatian authorities also guaranteed they would ensure his return, but that did not reassure presiding judge Claude Jorda, who noted the Croats have already "failed to cooperate" and refused to extradite other war crimes suspects.

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman recently awarded Blaskic a medal for his role in summer 1995 offensives to recapture Serb-held southern Croatia and large chunks of western Bosnia.


[Croatian "ethnic cleansing" and massacre overlooked/excused by Western mass media ... JP ]