The former Croatian General Ante Gotovina has made his first appearance at the UN tribunal in the Dutch city of The Hague. The 50-year-old was arrested on the Spanish island of Tenerife last week. Gotovina pleaded not guilty to seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder.
Prosecutors accuse him of jointly planning the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from their self-declared republic of Krajina in Croatia during Operation Storm in 1995, along with the late President Franjo Tudjman and others. He was the international tribunal’s third most-wanted suspect after Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.
Gotovina is charged with responsibility for the murder of about 150 ethnic Serbs, and the plundering and destruction of Serb-owned homes, which prompted about 200,000 people to flee the region. Gotovina is the last wanted war crimes suspect from Croatia and his arrest is expected to ease Zagreb’s path to joining the European Union.
Tens of thousands of Croats demonstrated on Sunday in Split in support of Gotovina, whom they regard as a national hero. The former member of the French Foreign Legion had travelled through Asia, Latin America and Europe before Spanish police tracked him down.