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Justice

Convictions against Croat generals overturned

The appeals chamber of the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has overturned the convictions of two Croat generals who were convicted last year for war crimes during the 1990 Balkan conflict.

Neither Ante Gotovina (above) nor Mladen Markac showed any emotion at the decision, but their supporters in The Hague court's packed public gallery cheered and clapped. Appeals judge Theodor Meron ordered both men freed immediately.

Last year, the generals had been sentenced to 24 and 18 years in jail, respectively, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors had asserted that the shelling of the town of Knin and three other towns in the Krajina region of Croatia had been part of a plan to drive out ethnic Serbs.

On sentencing last year, judges had ruled that both men had been part of a criminal conspiracy led by former Croat President Franjo Tudjman to expel Serbs. Appeals judges said on Friday, however, that no such conspiracy had existed.

On Thursday, thousands in Croatia had attended Mass and held candlelight vigils for the generals as they awaited the outcome of the appeal. Croatians rejected the allegation that their country had been a perpetrator during the Balkan wars.

mkg/ipj (Reuters, dpa, AP)