Europe

Serbia jails two for war crimes in eastern Bosnia

Workers remove human remains from a mass grave near Zvornik in 2003.
Image caption The bodies of hundreds of Bosnian Muslims were found in mass graves near Zvornik

A court in Serbia has given prison sentences to two men in connection with crimes committed in eastern Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war.

Branko Popovic was sentenced to 15 years and and Branko Grujic to six years over the torture and killing of 700 Muslims near the town of Zvornik.

Prosecutors called the sentences too lenient, and said they would appeal.

The trial is part of Serbia's efforts to deal with its wartime past as it seeks to join the European Union.

Correspondents say the area around Zvornik saw some of the bloodiest crimes committed on Bosnian territory during the war.

It fell under the control of the Bosnian Serb army, but paramilitaries from both Serbia and Bosnian Serb territory operated there.

They rounded up and tortured Muslim civilians, then killed or expelled many of them. Hundreds of bodies were later found in mass graves nearby.

Sentences 'inadequate'

The court found Popovic, a local military official, and Grujic, a former mayor of Zvornik, guilty of aiding in the killings of 700 Muslims in 1992, and doing nothing to prevent them.

The two were arrested in 2005, which means that Grujic has less than a year left to serve in prison.

The prosecutors' office said the sentences were "inadequate, considering the responsibility of the accused with regard to the number of victims and the brutality of the crimes".

Serbia is keen to move towards EU membership and has tried a number of Serb and Bosnian Serb war crimes suspects as it seeks to face up to its past.

But it has been criticised for failing to cooperate fully with the UN war crimes tribunal in finding the former Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic, who remains at large.

He has been indicted on charges of genocide and other crimes against humanity, including the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.

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