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A UN appeals court has overturned the conviction of the most senior Croatian military officer charged with war crimes during the Balkan conflicts.

General Ante Gotovina the former commander of the Croatian army has been cleared of targeting civilian institutions during fighting against ethnic Serbs in 1995.

Gotovina who had been given a 24-year sentence will be released immediately along with Croatian police commander Mladen Marckac who had been sentenced to 18-years.

Defence lawyer, John Jones said:

“I think it’s a fantastic day for international criminal justice. A fantastic day for history. And the appeal chamber’s judgement shows the original conviction was completely wrong. A miscarriage of justice, unfair and so they have their innocence restored to them but of course they will never regain the five years they’ve spent in custody.”

At home Gotvina is hailed as a hero, and his supporters celebrated on hearing the news of his release.

But in neighbouring Serbia he is reviled and the country’s deputy Prime Minister, Rasim Ljajic, reacted with dismay, saying the UN war crimes tribunal had lost “all credibility” with this decision.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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