UN war crimes court frees Croatian generals

The UN Yugoslav war crimes court on Friday acquitted Croatian ex-generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of charges including war crimes during the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia and ordered them freed.

The appeals court “enters a verdict of acquittal” for Gotovina and Markac, judge Theodor Meron said at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

The court’s packed public gallery erupted in cheers and clapping as the acquittal was read, with many people bursting out in tears and hugging Markac’s wife, Mirjana, who was at the hearing, as supporters outside uncorked champagne bottles. Gotovina and Markac, considered heros in Croatia, were last year jailed for 24 and 18 years respectively for the murder of Croatian Serbs. But the court found that the initial convictions had been based on the false premise that any artillery that landed on Serb-inhabited towns and was more than 200 metres from a military target was an attack on civilians. Gotovina, dressed in a light blue suit and dark blue tie, listened intently as judge Meron read the verdict. As it became obvious he would be freed, he smiled.

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