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Originally published May 29, 2013 at 2:56 AM | Page modified May 29, 2013 at 3:20 AM

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UN court convicts 6 Bosnian Croats of atrocities

A United Nations court convicted six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders Wednesday of persecuting, expelling and murdering Muslims during Bosnia's war as part of a plan supported by leaders in neighboring Croatia to establish a Croat state in Bosnia.

Associated Press

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands —

A United Nations court convicted six Bosnian Croat political and military leaders Wednesday of persecuting, expelling and murdering Muslims during Bosnia's war as part of a plan supported by leaders in neighboring Croatia to establish a Croat state in Bosnia.

The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal convictions underscored Croatia's involvement in Bosnia's 1992-95 conflict.

A majority of the three-judge panel says that late-Croat President Franjo Tudjman was a key member of a plan to carve out a Croat ministate in Bosnia with the aim of later uniting it with his country to create a greater Croatia, or leaving it as a separate independent state.

The court handed down sentences ranging from 10 to 25 years' imprisonment for the six suspects.

The longest sentence was handed down to Jadranko Prlic, former leader of the self-proclaimed Croatian community and later republic of Herceg-Bosna. Also convicted were Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic.

The trial, which began in April 2006, provided a reminder of the complex ethnic jigsaw that fueled fighting in Bosnia and continues to create frictions in the country even today. While many cases at the 20-year-old tribunal focus on crimes by Serbs, the case that ended Wednesday highlighted vicious crimes by Croats, who are Catholics, targeting Muslims.

The judges ruled that murders, rapes, illegal expulsions and torture of Muslims "were not the random acts of a few unruly soldiers" but part of a plan to permanently remove Muslims from territory claimed by Bosnian Croats, Presiding Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti told a packed courtroom.

Antonetti said a majority of the three-judge panel ruled that Croatia had overall control over the Bosnian Croat entity and its armed forces and that Croat troops fought alongside Bosnian Croat forces.

The lengthy trial led to a 2,629-page judgment spread over six volumes.

The six defendants showed no emotion as Antonetti read out their convictions and sentences.

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