Former VS general tells of "surviving Hague gallows"

Former Yugoslav Army (VS) General Vladimir Lazarevic has been released after serving two thirds of his 14-year prison sentence.

Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug

Lazarevic, who was put on trial and convicted by the Hague Tribunal, arrived at the airport in Nis, southern Serbia, at about 14:00 CET on Thursday.

Lazarevic was greeted there by Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic, Minister of Justice Nikola Selakovic, as well as Labor, Social, and Veterans Affairs Minister Aleksandar Vulin, Serbian Army chief Ljubisa Dikovic, SPC Bishop Teodosije, and Nis Mayor Zoran Perisic.

Lazarevic was indicted, put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to 14 years in prison for command responsibility for the crimes committed in Kosovo and Metohija. He was the commander of the Pristina Corps, and later the commander of the 3rd Army in 1998 and 1999.

He spent more than 10 years in the Hague prison, and in the meantime fell ill and underwent several surgeries.

Lazarevic voluntarily surrendered to the court in February 2005, where he was found guilty four years later and sentenced to 15 years in prison. This sentence was reduced on appeal to 14 years.

The general said upon his return to the country that he was convicted without any evidence, but that he managed to survive "the Hague gallows."

"I have ten lost years behind me, and why? I have not been convicted of a specific wrongdoing, neither mine, nor that of my soldiers, 70,000 of them - nor of an offense against life and property, nor for violating the rules of war," Lazarevic said at the Nis airport today, where he was welcomed by Serbian officials.

He said he was thankful to all who welcomed him, and underlined that the Hague Tribunal convicted him "only because he commanded the (VJ) Pristina Corps."

"I overcame the Hague gallows, with deep faith in justice and truth. You cannot lie to all the people all the time. The source of my survival were my 600 fellow soldiers who were killed, and over 2,000 wounded," he said.

Serbia's misters of justice and defense, Nikola Selakovic and Bratislav Gasic, said that the return of Lazarevic was "a great day for Serbia."

"Thanks to the the general, today Nis, Kraljevo, Valjevo, and Krusevac are free - all of our cities and villages," Selakovic said.


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