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Ex-Croat generals lawyers move to appeal war crimes verdicts

Lawyers of two former Croatian generals moved on Monday to appeal lengthy jail terms imposed on their clients by a UN war crimes court last month, national radio reported.

The deadline to file a brief for the appeal against the convictions of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, sentenced in April to prison terms of 24 and 18 years respectively, expired at midnight (2200 GMT) Monday. “This brief presents a future framework for the appeal’s content,” Markac’s lawyer Goran Mikulicic told the radio.

Gotovina’s defence team also said it would make an announcement of appeal to International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, the radio reported.

It was not yet known if the prosecution would also file an appeal. Gotovina and Markac were found guilty by the ICTY of war crimes against ethnic Serbs at the end of the 1990s conflict in Croatia.

The two were found guilty of conspiring with the Zagreb wartime leadership to kill or expel ethnic Serbs during and after an August 1995 military operation.

The verdict shocked Croatia, including top officials, where many see the country’s top wartime officers as national heroes.

Croatia’s proclamation of independence from the former Yugoslavia sparked the 1991-1995 war with ethnic Serbs, backed by Belgrade, opposing the move. The operation to recapture a key rebel Serb-held area essentially ended the 1991-1995 war. -AFP