MP Bell claims Croat was wrongly jailed for atrocity

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The Independent Online

The MP and former BBC correspondent Martin Bell is calling for the immediate release of a convicted Croat war criminal who is serving a 45-year sentence in a Dutch jail. The independent MP for Tatton says he will raise the case of General Tomas Blaskic in the House of Commons.

The MP and former BBC correspondent Martin Bell is calling for the immediate release of a convicted Croat war criminal who is serving a 45-year sentence in a Dutch jail. The independent MP for Tatton says he will raise the case of General Tomas Blaskic in the House of Commons.

Blaskic was sentenced in March at the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague after being found guilty of atrocities during the Bosnian War. The horrific massacre at Ahmici, in Central Bosnia in 1993, was at the centre of the case against Blaskic.

More than 100 Muslim men, women and children were terrorised in the dead of night at Ahmici before being rounded up and either shot or burned. The atrocity shocked the world.

It is alleged that the massacre was conducted by regular soldiers of the Bosnian Croat Army under the command of Blaskic, then a colonel.

Mr Bell's call for Blaskic's release follows new evidence - published this week in The Independent - that implicates President Franjo Tudjman and his henchmen in the massacre and subsequent cover-up.

Key to the new evidence is a series of secretly recorded tapes, made by Croatia's late President Tudjman. With associated transcripts, it shows that Tudjman and his cronies covered up the identities of the real killers - a ruthless covert force controlled by Zagreb called "The Jokers".

Martin Bell said: "Blaskic must now be released. The false conviction of Blaskic really concerns me and there is real public pressure on The War Crimes Tribunal to set him free."

General Blaskic's lawyer Anto Nobilo told The Independent his client was shocked by the Tudjman tapes, which confirmed he had been set up by Tudjman and his cronies.

One document from Miroslev Tudjman, the late President's eldest son and then head of intelligence, dated 21 March 1994, names The Jokers. A high level military intelligence source in current government in Zagreb has revealed the four main culprits were not only given false identities, but a government monthly pay cheque and free housing by Tudjman and his cronies.

After the massacre, the intelligence source said military investigators reviewed what had happened at Ahmici and discovered it was Dario Kordic who issued the order. President Trudjman died last December.

Two of the four named men, Ante Sliskovic and Tomislav Vlajic, have now been arrested by the Croatian authorities. Dario Kordic has already been handed over by the new Croatian government to the War Crimes Tribunal and is currently awaiting trial.

John Cookson and Cabell Bruce investigated the Ahmici massacre for Channel 4

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