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Thousands of Croatians have held vigils and attended masses in support of two generals on the eve of their appeals against war crimes convictions.

A rally in Zagreb included hundreds of veterans from the Balkans war of the 1990s, while other demonstrations were organised around the country for those they consider heroes.

Such is the interest in Croatia that Friday’s appeal judgements will be broadcast live on large screens in the capital’s main square.

At the original trial in The Hague last year, the war crimes tribunal jailed Ante Gotovina for 24 years over the murder of Serbs in Croatia.

Another former general, Mladen Markac, was given 18 years.

A 1995 Croatian offensive dubbed “Operation Storm” sought to retake the Krajina region and expel tens of thousands of Serbs.

Gotovina was accused of being responsible for the death of 324 civilians or soldiers who had surrendered.

The Croatian government and public reacted angrily to the verdicts.

Croatia’s forthcoming EU membership was conditional on its cooperation with the tribunal.

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