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Friday, December 19, 1997 Published at 18:23 GMT


Tribunal frees Bosnia war crimes suspect
image: [ Marvinko Katava, second from the left, stands alongside other war crimes suspects ]
Marvinko Katava, second from the left, stands alongside other war crimes suspects

The United Nations War Crimes Tribunal has ordered the immediate release of a Bosnian Croat suspect who gave himself up to the court in October.

The court is now deciding whether two other Bosnian Croat suspects should also be released.

The chief prosecutor dropped charges against Marinko Katava because there was insufficient evidence against him.

Mr Katava had been accused in connection with the Bosnian Croat campaign against the Muslims of Central Bosnia in 1993.

He was part of a group of 10 Bosnian Croats who surrendered to the tribunal in October.

Prosecutors say they are now satisfied that Mr Katava has an alibi - a fact which came to light during the course of another trial.

Mr Katava held his head in his hands and appeared to be crying as the ruling was made.

The presiding judge, Antonio Cassese, said he was puzzled as to why it had taken the prosecution so long to act and hoped that this would not happen in the future.

[ image: Anto Furundzija: pleading not guilty]
Anto Furundzija: pleading not guilty
He said it was in the interests of justice that Mr Katava be released from detention as soon as possible.

A decision on whether two other Bosnian Croats - Pero Skopljak and Ivan Santic - should also be released was expected later.

Another Bosnian Croat who was arrested by Nato troops on Thursday has entered a not guilty plea to the charges against him.

Anto Furundzija is accused of standing by as a soldier raped a woman prisoner.

[ image: Javier Solana: warning to suspects in hiding]
Javier Solana: warning to suspects in hiding
Nato's Secretary-General, Javier Solana, who is visiting Bosnia-Hercegovina, has said the detention of Anto Furundzija and Vlatko Kupreskic is a warning to other suspects to turn themselves in, or be seized by force.

On a visit to see the Bosnian Serb President, Biljana Plavsic, in Banja Luka, Mr Solana said Nato-led troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina would do the same if the authorities did not fulfil their obligations to surrender indicted war criminals.


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