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Sarajevo Court Acquits a Former Bosnian Commander of War Crimes

FILE- Naser Oric (R) is seen with his lawyer during his trial in The Hague, Netherlands, July 3, 2008.

A Sarajevo court Monday acquitted a former commander of the Bosnian Army in Srebrenica of war crimes during the Balkan wars of 1990s.

Naser Oric, 50, was found not guilty of killing three Bosnian Serb prisoners of war in 1992.

The court also acquitted an Oric subordinate, former Bosnian Army soldier Sabahudin Muhic of the killings that took place in Srebrenica area.

The prosecution had alleged that Oric and killed the Serb captives in the villages of Zalazje, Lolici and Kunjerac.

However, the presiding judge Saban Maksumic said the prosecution was not able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Oric and Muhic committed the killings.

The case was highly controversial because Oric is seen as a hero by many in Bosnia for his role in defending Srebrenica in the years before the 1995 massacre of about 8,000 men and boys when Serbian army overran the city.

Before the trial started, Oric’s defense asked the U.N. tribunal in The Hague to order a halt to the proceedings against Oric, arguing that he was tried and acquitted of war crimes in Srebrenica and should not stand trial for the same crimes twice. However, the tribunal rejected the request, saying the charges in the Bosnian trial were different.

In 2006 the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sentenced Oric to two years in prison for not doing enough to protect Srebrenica's Serb population during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war. However he was acquitted on appeal in 2008.

Oric had been a bodyguard to former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and is one of only a few Bosnian Muslim commanders to have faced trial for atrocities committed against Serbs.