Anger on streets as 'national hero' generals are jailed for war crimes

Vesna Peric Zimonjic
Monday 18 April 2011 00:00 BST

Up to 30,000 Croats took to the streets of the capital Zagreb over the weekend to protest against the jailing of two generals for war crimes in the Balkans wars on Friday.

Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac are considered national heroes in Croatia. General Gotovina was jailed by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague for 24 years, and General Markac received an 18-year sentence. Both were found guilty of orchestrating a campaign of murder and looting that led to the expulsion of some 200,000 Serbs from Croatia in 1995. A third general, Ivan Cermak, was acquitted of all charges and arrived in Zagreb late on Friday.

The protesters carried banners reading "I love Croatia, not in the EU", and "Go away EU". They also spat at and burned the EU flag in the central Bana Jelacica Square. Demonstrators also took to the streets in Osijek and Split.

Zagreb police said three people had been arrested after burning the EU flag. Protest rallies were expected to continue for days. Croatia hopes to join the EU next year, but analysts say that the tribunal's ruling will raise an anti-EU sentiment.

There were also protests in Serbia on Saturday. Up to 50,000 people took to the streets in Belgrade to support an opposition rally calling on the government to make economic reforms.

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