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Bosnian-Serb General's War Crimes Trial Begins - 2001-12-03

The trial of a Bosnian-Serb general charged with commanding the siege of Sarajevo opens Monday at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague. General Stanislav Galic says he is innocent, but prosecutors have charged him with crimes against humanity for shelling Sarajevo and organizing a sniping campaign against its civilians from 1992 to 1995.

The trial of General Stanislav Galic is the first to deal with the siege of Sarajevo and the sustained assault on its residents, including the 1994 marketplace bombing that killed 66 people.

War crimes prosecutors say thousands of people were killed or wounded during the 44-month-long siege of the city, which they say was meant to keep its residents in a constant state of terror.

As commander of the Sarajevo-Romanija corps of the Bosnian-Serb army, prosecutors say, it was General Galic who commanded the troops who blockaded Sarajevo, shelled the city and used sniper fire to target its residents from the hills above.

The attacks, say prosecutors, were aimed at people as they went about their daily business of buying bread, attending funerals, working in their gardens or riding trams.

Some were killed inside their own homes by bullets that came in through the windows, they say.

But General Galic, who was arrested by NATO-led forces in Bosnia two years ago, says he is innocent.

His lawyers say the Sarajevo-Romanija corps never targeted civilians and that any casualties in the city were the result of legitimate military actions against Bosnian-Muslim armed forces and snipers.

Other casualties, they claim, were the result of Muslims attacking their own side in an effort to blame the Serbs and drive world public opinion against them.

Last month, one of General Galic's subordinates was indicted for similar crimes, but he is still at large.