Ex-Yugoslav Officer Released Early From Prison

Posted July 7th, 2011 at 3:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Former Yugoslav army officer Veselin Sljivancanin has been released from prison after serving two thirds of his 10-year term for war crimes committed during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s.

Sljivancanin was one of three Yugoslav officers convicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for failing to prevent a murder of some 200 Croatian prisoners on a farm in eastern Croatia in November 1991.

He returned to his home in the Serbian capital Thursday after serving about seven years of his term.

Judge Patrick Robinson announced the court's decision Thursday in The Hague, citing the prisoner's good behavior. He said the early release was approved because Sljivancanin expressed remorse about the atrocities committed near the eastern Croatian city of Vukovar and elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia after its break-up.

Sljivancanin, however, did not admit any wrongdoing on his part.

The former Yugoslav army commander was arrested in 2003 in Belgrade and delivered to The Hague-based court where he stood trial.

He was sentenced in 2007 to five years in prison for aiding the torture of non-Serb prisoners at the Ovcara farm outside Vukovar. In 2009, appeals judges also convicted him of murder and increased his sentence to 17 years.

In a rare move, the court reduced his sentence in 2010 after hearing a new testimony.

That decision sparked angry protests from Croatia.

Former Yugoslav officer Mile Mrksic, who stood trial together with Sljivancanin, received a 20-year prison sentence. The third officer, Miroslav Radic, was acquitted.