By Maja Tuljković – Sarajevo
The Department for War Crimes in Belgrade reached a verdict today to sentenced Ilija Jurišić to 12 years in prison, according to the indictment charging him with the killing of soldiers in the former JNA in Tuzla on 15 May 1992, and in the case that was known by the name ‘Tuzla Column’. This is his second trial verdict, because it is the first sentence of which he was sentenced to an identical sentence for alleged war crimes, or the use of illegal means of war, overturned the Court of Appeal and ordered a new trial in front of a new trial chamber. The Prosecution for War Crimes, in the final words, proposed that Jurišić be sentenced to 15 years in jail, while his defense asked for acquittal.
Ilija Jurišić was arrested on 11 May 2007 at the Belgrade airport ‘Nikola Tesla’ on the basis of an arrest warrant of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, and since then has been in jail in Belgrade. He was convicted on 22 September 2009 before the War Crimes Chamber of the former Belgrade District Court to 12 years in prison because, as it was stated in the judgment, he ordered the attack on a JNA column that was retrating from Tuzla.
The Appellate Court in Belgrade repealed the judgment of Ilija Juršić on 11 October 2010, which in the first instance was a sentence of 12 years in jail for war crimes on the column of JNA soldiers on 15 May 1992. On the same day, detention was repealed in which he spent two and a half years. Then, the presiding judge Siniša Važić said that the court, after the main trial adopted an appeal of Jurišić’s lawyer and ordered the court of first instance-division for war crimes to re-establish the facts upon orders from the decision of the Appellate Court.
The Appellate Court defended its decision because in the first instance there was not enough evidence that would confirm the prosecution. The reasoning then was that there was not enough evidence that would confirm or deny the allegations or defense, and that it was not clear why and under whose orders the garrison of the JNA withdrew from Tuzla in 1992.
The retrial of Jurišić began at the start of July 2011, since in October 2010 the Applelate Court in Belgrade revoked the first instance verdict, and allowed him to defend himself on bail. At the beginning of the retrial, Jurišić denied guilt by pointing out that his ‘conscience is clear’. Among other things, he said that he was not the commander and that he could not make independent decisions.
The defense of Ilija Jurišić will make a decision in the next few days on a possible appeal, considering that it is an appealable conviction, and on this imposed sanction Jurišić and the Prosecution for War Crimes have the right to appeal to the Appellate Court in Belgrade. Ilija Jurišić, the current Tuzla Municipal Councilor, awaited the judgment of the Department for War Crimes of the Higher Court in Belgrade at the University Clinical Center Tuzla due to his deteriorating health.