Prison sentence halved for remorseful Srebrenica killer

Copyright (c) 1998
Copyright (c) 1998 The Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (March 5, 1998 5:48 p.m. EST)
U.N. judges cut a remorseful Bosnian Croat's sentence from 10 years in
prison to five years Thursday, saying they hoped the case would encourage
other war criminals to surrender.

Drazen Erdemovic, 26, blinked back tears as Yugoslav war crimes tribunal
judges halved his sentence for the 1995 massacre of unarmed Muslims after
rebel Serbs overran Srebrenica.

Though Erdemovic faced up to life imprisonment, the judges said the young
father was "reformable" and "should be given a chance to start his life
afresh while he is still young enough to do so."

"Judges have shown understanding and compassion," said Erdemovic's attorney,
Nikola Kostich. "Here is a little guy who got caught up in these events."

With the two years he has already spent in custody, Erdemovic will be freed
in three years.

Armed with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle, Erdemovic was part of a Bosnian
Serb execution squad that killed hundreds of Muslims on a collective farm
near Srebrenica, but he always maintained he was forced to take part in the
massacre or be shot himself.

He appealed the sentence and pleaded guilty Jan. 14 to a lesser charge of a
war crime for the same killings.

The three-judge panel, led by Florence Mumba of Zambia, said it took into
account Erdemovic's remorse, the fact that he turned himself in voluntarily,
and his cooperation with prosecutors in deciding how long he should spend
behind bars.

Erdemovic has told investigators about a previously unknown massacre in
Srebrenica and testified in a hearing against top suspects Radovan Karadzic
and Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb wartime civil and military leaders.

In a separate case, the tribunal scheduled the arraignment of Bosnian Serb
suspect Dragoljub Kunarac for Monday.

Kunarac, who faces charges of rape and torture of Bosnian Muslim women,
voluntarily surrendered to NATO troops in the eastern Bosnian village of
Filipovici on Wednesday and was flown to The Hague.

By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press Writer