Dragan Vasiljkovic.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Mario STRMOTIĆ / mm

The defence counsels for Dragan Vasiljkovic, aka Captain Dragain, who pleaded not guilty to war crimes charges on Tuesday, said that they did not intend to prove his innocence but would have him acquitted by contesting the charges and evidence presented by the prosecution.

Vasiljkovic told the presiding judge that he was not just anyone but a "known officer" whom "officials in the Croatian judiciary" in 2005 proclaimed a war criminal. He said that the proceedings today had nothing to do with war crimes and that witnesses had testified falsely and that he had not committed any crime.

"A crime has been committed against me because I have been in prison for 11 years without any sentence. This is a rigged case...the indictment is ridiculous...this is all a lie," Vasiljkovic said.

He concluded that the indictment against him should not have been upheld and that he would prove in court that the testimonies against him are false.

Defence counsel Tomislav Filakovic said that the indictment is based on claims that Dragan Vasiljkovic had a commanding role, however, stressing that there is no credible evidence of that and adding that it would be difficult to prove the claims made in the indictment.

Vasiljkovic is  charged with violating the Geneva Conventions by torturing and killing Croatian prisoners of war in a prison in Knin in June and July 1991 and in Bruska near Benkovac in February 1993.

He is also indicted for having planned in July 1991 in Glina, in agreement with the commander of a Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) tank unit, an attack on the police station in Glina, its suburb of Jukinac and the villages of Gornji Vidusevac and Donji Vidusevac. The prosecution alleges that during the attack civilian properties were damaged or destroyed, the local population was forced to flee their homes, their property was plundered and civilians were killed and wounded, including a foreign reporter.

The trial will continue on October 18, 19 and 20 when 12 witnesses are expected to be heard.

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