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Sarajevo siege general trial begins

Galic was under the command of Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic
Galic was under the command of Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic  

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A Bosnian-Serb commander during the siege of Sarajevo went on trial for alleged war crimes on Monday.

Gen. Stanislav Galic, 58, is accused of ordering his snipers and artillerymen to fire on civilians as they bought bread, tended vegetable gardens or attended funerals of earlier victims.

Galic appeared cool and collected as prosecutors drew a portrait of fear and suffering throughout a nearly four-year siege in their opening statement at the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Galic's indictment charges him with criminal responsibility for atrocities committed by 18,000 troops of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps.

War crimes defendants 

The defendant has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of war crimes he says he never knew took place during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, a period when prosecutors say thousands of civilians were killed as they went about their everyday lives.

He sat quietly jotting in a hard-backed notebook as the court listened to a 90-minute summary from prosecutors.

"A three-year-old child was shot at the door of her home, a nine-year-old as she played in her garden. Civilians were shot in their homes as they watched television, drank coffee or prayed," said lead prosecutor Mark Ierace, an Australian.

"There was a constant fear of death."

Observers say the Galic case is a key link in the prosecutors' attempt to build a case against his superiors, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief, Ratko Mladic. Both men, indicted for genocide in Bosnia, remain at large.

For nearly two years of the siege, Galic was the commander of the Romanija Corps surrounding Sarajevo.

His deputy and successor, Dragomir Milosevic, also has been indicted as a war criminal but remains a fugitive. He is not related to the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, who also is on trial in The Hague for alleged genocide in Bosnia, and for alleged war crimes in Kosovo and Croatia.

Galic, detained by NATO troops two years ago, said in his pretrial defence he had no knowledge of such events.

Inner-city shelling and sniper attacks happened daily in Sarajevo as the forces of the Yugoslav army under former President Milosevic rained fire from positions in the mountains surrounding the once vibrant and multi-ethnic city of 500,000.

The front line between Bosnian Serb and Muslim forces encircled Sarajevo, sometimes reaching the urban districts in the south and west.

Hundreds of pedestrians were deliberately shot trying to cross "sniper alley" and scores of children were killed by shells while playing in the snow. In one attack alone, the shelling of Markale market, 66 people died.

Fear reigned so fully that people buried their dead at night or when fog set in to escape the scope of gunmen in the surrounding hills or in high-rise buildings.

The first witness, Tarik Kupusovic, told the court the city's three ethnic groups -- Serbs, Croats and Muslims -- had lived in harmony for decades and worshipped at mosques, churches and synagogues that stood nearly next to each other.

Kupusovic, who was mayor during the latter part of the siege, said 10 to 15 people were killed every day.


• Belgrade under fire over Mladic
November 27, 2001
• Del Ponte hopes for Mladic arrest
September 4, 2001
• Serbs rally for wanted Karadzic
July 28, 2001

• U.N. war crimes tribunal

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