UN judges to issue decision on Krajisnik appeal

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The Independent Online

The former speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament hears today if UN judges will overturn his conviction for orchestrating ethnic cleansing campaigns that left thousands of Muslims and Croats dead.

The appeals verdict for Momcilo Krajisnik at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal will take into account the testimony of Radovan Karadzic, his political mentor and former Bosnian Serb leader, who appeared before the judges shortly after his own arrest following 13 years as the court's most wanted fugitive.

Both the defence and the prosecution are appealing Krajisnik's 27-year sentence.

Krajisnik also enlisted the help of Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard University law professor who was a consultant on the defence team that helped former American football star OJ Simpson win an acquittal of murder charges in 1994.

Krajisnik was convicted in 2006 of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation and the forced transfer of non-Serb civilians from regions of Bosnia during the country's devastating 1992-95 conflict. He was acquitted of genocide and complicity in genocide.

Krajisnik was speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament during the war and a senior member of Karadzic's Serb Democratic Party.

Judges ruled that his political position also made him a key player in a conspiracy to create a "Greater Serbia" by violently driving Muslims and Croats out of large areas of Bosnia.

Other alleged members of the conspiracy included Karadzic, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic who died in 2006 during his own trial at The Hague, and Biljana Plavsic who is serving an 11-year sentence after pleading guilty to ethnic cleansing.

Testifying as a defence witness last November, Karadzic insisted that Krajisnik wielded virtually no power and did not play a role in decisions by the Bosnian Serb wartime leadership.

Asked if Krajisnik had any involvement in military operations, Karadzic replied, "Absolutely not."

Karadzic is expected to go on trial later this year on charges that include genocide, extermination, murder, and forced deportations.

Dershowitz, arguing for an acquittal, told judges that Krajisnik's conviction was flawed because it relied on his participation in a criminal conspiracy that aimed at the violent removal of non-Serbs from areas of Bosnia — but failed to link his actual actions to the crimes on the ground.

"What he did was make speeches," Dershowitz said.