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Bosnian Serb war criminal dies of coronavirus

15 September 2020, MVT 21:25
In this photo, taken on January 9 in 1996, kBosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, left, and Serb member of Bosnian Presidency Momcilo Krajisnik roll the cake, marking St. Stevan, Republic of Srpska patron-saint day, in the Bosnian town of Pale. The hospital in the northern Bosnian town of Banja Luka said Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, that Krajisnik, a former top wartime Bosnian Serb official who was convicted of war crimes by a U.N. court, died after contracting the new coronavirus. He was 75. PHOTO: DARKO VOJINOVIC /AP
15 September 2020, MVT 21:25

A Bosnian Serb political leader who was jailed for 20 years by a UN court for his role in Bosnia's 1990s war died on Tuesday of coronavirus, state media reported.

Momcilo Krajisnik, a former key ally of the Bosnian Serbs' wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic, passed away in a hospital in the northern town of Banja Luka, the hospital said in a statement quoted by the public RTRS television.

During Bosnia's 1992-1995 conflict Krajisnik, a hardline Serb nationalist who was fiercely anti-Muslim, served as speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament.

The 75-year-old was taken to hospital in late August as his health deteriorated.

Krajisnik was arrested in Bosnia in 2000 and six years later convicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of forcibly expelling non-Serbs and crimes against humanity.

The war, which pitted Bosnia's Croat, Muslim and Serb communities against each other, claimed some 100,000 lives and forced 2.2 million people, half the country's pre-war population, to flee their homes.

Krajisnik's initial 27-year sentence was later cut on appeal to 20 years and in 2013 he was granted early release from prison.

He received a hero's welcome from several thousand fellow Serbs upon returning to the Bosnian Serb wartime stronghold of Pale.

At the time he called on the crowd to give up "hatred ... and offer our hand to everyone who wants reconciliation".

"We all should forgive those who have done evil to us and ask those we have done evil things to forgive us."

Krajisnik also said he would seek a "revision" of his war crimes conviction, but this never happened.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges at the start of his trial before the ICTY.

Since his release, Krajisnik was running a gas station in Pale and a construction firm.

In an interview with AFP in 2017, he said that hatred was the "biggest evil" of Bosnia's war which would be "hardly eradicated".

"There is only one truth, everywhere except in Bosnia, here there are three truths," he said in a reference to the country's Croats, Muslims and Serbs who remain sharply divided a quarter of a century after the war.

The conflict left the country split into two semi-autonomous halves -- the Serbs' Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

Karadzic himself is serving a life sentence for genocide and other atrocities.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina | AFP