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15. 04. 1999. 18:46H

ZAGREB, Apr 15 (Hina) - The main hearing in the trial of former concentration camp commander Dinko Sakic, accused of war crimes against humanity, resumed at the Zagreb County Court on Thursday with the testimony of Ljubomir Saric, aged 77.

The witness said he knew nothing about Sakic, who commanded the camp at Jasenovac. He heard about him in the press shortly before he was extradited from Argentina. Inmates at Stara Gradiska, another concentration camp in World War Two Croatia, did not mention the defendant's name, the witness said.

Saric was brought to the camp in August of 1942, without being put to any previous trial and pursuant to no ruling. Unlike other witnesses in the main hearing, Saric did not say why he was arrested in the Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945) and how he got out of the concentration camp in July of 1943.

On his first day at Stara Gradiska, then commanded by Ljubo Milos, Saric was present at the shooting of an inmate who "had stolen a little corn."

After the "Kozara (mountain in Bosnia) offensive" in 1942, the Ustashi executed a "mass of women and children" at Gradina, a site near the Jasenovac camp, the witness said, while men fit for labour were taken to the camp and assigned to labour groups.

"Because of the large number of women and children, the Ustashi did not kill them as usual, with mallets, knives and cudgels, but by machine-gun fire," Saric said.

The witness also described camp section III C, closed down in late 1942. The inmates there were left to starve to death. "There were cases of cannibalism at the time," Saric said.

Musters at the camps were regular, as were groundless shootings of inmates in front of the barracks. The regularity of musters attended by all Ustashi commissioned and non-commissioned officers depended on the number of inmates at the camps.

"To find space for new inmates, the Ustashi selected 'old', weak and infirm ones during musters. That was the basic criterion. The selected inmates were tied with wire and taken to be executed," Saric said.

He remembered when a group of Romany had to play in front of the Ustashi. Camp commander Miroslav Majstorovic-Filipovic, disappointed with the music, shot one Romany. "The Romany would not be brought to the camp, but immediately taken to be executed."

Saric disagreed with a statement made by witness Dragutin Skrgaric on Wednesday. Skrgaric told the court the Ustashi treated Croats a little better. "The Ustashi didn't care who was Serb, Jew, or Croat," Saric said.

Speaking about food at the camps, Saric said it was "simple slop." "We were very happy when we got some bones or a piece of meat," he explained.

The witness remembered when Hinko Dominik Picili horse-whipped a 12-year-old boy to death.

He also remembered Junior Lieutenant Zrinusic, who was arrested and sentenced to death in 1945, after the war. Every morning, Zrinusic would arrive at the camp's construction site, where the witness worked as a technician, and tell him about the events of the night before.

"He told me (once) he had competed in slaughtering, but lost to Ustashi Lt. Brzica. For him, the genuine Ustashi was the one who had bloodied his hands. The Ustashi who would not kill were punished," Saric said, adding physical maltreatment was a daily occurrence.

He said executions were carried out at Gradina and Granik, where the Ustashi would rip the victim's stomach open and throw them into the Sava river. The witness added he had personally seen corpses float in the river.

The bell tower at the Jasenovac camp was used for interrogations and torture. "Cries for help coming from there could be heard often," Saric said.

The inmates' toilets were open pits. Saric remembered seeing an Ustashi push an inmate into a pit. He drowned in excrement.

A workshop at the camp called "lancara" served for the making of special knives for slaughtering. "They were sickle-shaped, with a leather slip-on cover which would be fastened around the hand," Saric said.

He remembered when in the autumn of 1942 the Ustashi organised an alleged plum-picking on the Bosnian bank of the Sava, across the concentration camp. "Those who applied never came back," he said.

Naming prominent "Ustashi executioners", the witness cited Maricic, Majstorovic and Matkovic.

"Everything the witnesses who came before me have said is true. Even though I had nightmares about Jasenovac and camp musters for years, I forgot a lot," Saric said.

The main hearing will continue on April 19.

This material is provided by Croatian News Agency (HINA)
HINA News Line: http://www.HINA.Hr/

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