Milenko Maric, who worked as a policeman for Croatian Serb wartime separatist authorities, was extradited from Britain for a second time to be retried for allegedly beating up civilian prisoners in 1991.
The retrial of Serb ex-policeman Milenko Maric for committing war crimes against the civilian population will begin on Tuesday in Osijek after he was extradited for the second time in six years from Britain, where he has been living for more than 25 years.
Maric, 63, who was extradited to Croatia on April 5, will be tried alongside 11 others.
He allegedly committed assaulted civilian detainees in the Baranja area in 1991, which at that time was occupied by separatist Serb forces and was part of the unrecognised Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina.
Maric was tried for the same offences and acquitted in 2017 after being extradited from Britain for the first time. But the Croatian Supreme Court overturned the verdict because of a “significant procedural violation” and sent the case for a retrial, so he was extradited again.
He has denied all the allegations. “In the war, I did only good things. I risked my life to help and protect people,” he told British media.
The indictment accuses Maric of “systematically participating in the intimidation and cruel physical and psychological abuse of non-Serb civilian residents of Baranja in the towns of Ceminac, Dubosevica and Beli Manastir in August and September 1991”.
It claims that he committed the crime “as a participant in an armed rebellion by part of the Serb population against the constitutional order of the Republic of Croatia”.
The indictment states that on August 26, 1991, Maric and two other indictees, Velimir Bertic and Dusan Vuksic, along with several other members of Serbian paramilitary forces, raided a man’s house in Beli Manastir, took him to a police station and physically abused him.
Maric is also accused of arresting another man on September 20, 1991 in Dubosevica, together with fellow indictees Milan Jaric and Velimir Bertic and several unknown members of Serbian paramilitary forces, taking him to a police station and physically abusing him.
He is further accused of arresting a man in Beli Manastir at the end of August 1991, together with indictees Dusan Madjarac and Zoran Madjarac, and beating him all over his body with a rubber cable. They also allegedly took off the victim’s clothes and confiscated 1,200 German marks, jewellery and personal documents.
Further allegations include the claim that Maric, along with co-indictees Milan Jaric, Zoran Vuksic and several other members of Serbian paramilitary forces seized a man and his wife from their home in Ceminac on an unspecified date at the end of the summer of 1991 and beat the man up, knocking out ten of his teeth and breaking two ribs.
Maric is also accused of beating and kicking a detainee at Beli Manastir prison, together with Zoran Vuksic and other policemen, fracturing the man’s skull.
Maric’s defence lawyer Tomislav Filakovic claimed his client’s rights were being violated because he was mistakenly sent to a prison in Pozega even though the trial will take place in Osijek.
“So I don’t have the opportunity to use the legal right to meet and agree on a defence. That means his right to a defence lawyer is being threatened because he is 100 kilometres away from Osijek,” Filakovic told BIRN.