PROSECUTION: LIFE SENTENCE FOR MEN WHO STOLE 3,000 YEARS OF LIFE
In its closing argument, the prosecution has called for a sentence that will ensure that Milan and Sredoje Lukic ‘will remain in prison for the rest of their lives’, a sentence that will send a clear message that there is no mercy for those capable of committing such heinous crimes. Milan Lukic’s defense contends the prosecution has failed to prove Milan Lukic’s responsibility beyond reasonable doubt, asking for his acquittal. Sredoje Lukic’s defense will deliver its closing argument tomorrow.
‘There is only one sin, and that is theft. All other sins are variations on that theme and murder could be seen as theft of life’. Prosecutor Dermot Groome used this quote from a book Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini in his closing argument at the trial of Milan and Sredoje Lukic. Groome urged the judges to deliver the sentence that would make sure the accused ‘will spend the rest of their lives in prison’ because they ‘stole more than 3,000 years of life’ in June 1992 from the Visegrad Muslims.
Milan and Sredoje Lukic are charged with setting up the two living pyres in which about 140 people were burned to death, and with the murder and abuse of Visegrad Muslims in 1992. Murder is, as Groome put it, ‘a theft of life’, not only of the victims but also of their families and the community as a whole. If the crimes at issue in this case are seen from that point of view, the prosecution noted, it will be understood ‘that the people in Visegrad suffered inestimable loss because of the actions of the two accused and the scale of the theft’.
The prosecution wants the judgment handed down to Milan and Sredoje Lukic to ‘send a clear message’: all those who ‘might contemplate committing similar crimes and use vulnerable victims’ that they would be arrested and criminally prosecuted. They will have the right to a fair trial but if they proven guilty’ there will be ‘no mercy’ for them as they would ‘be punished to the maximum extent of the law’.
Jason Alarid, Milan Lukic’s US lawyer, contested in his closing argument the evidence of the surviving victims and other prosecution witnesses describing them as ‘liars’, ‘lunatics’, ‘alcoholics’ and ‘hysterical persons’. Alarid challenged the identification of his client and questioned whether the living pyres in the Pionirska Street and in Bikavac actually happened. According to him, it has not been established whether there was a fire there and the victims have not been identified. In Alarid’s view, the prosecution has failed to contest the ‘irrefutable evidence on the alibi’ of Milan Lukic: therefore, all the witnesses who claimed that they saw the accused at the crime scene ‘lied’. The prosecution, Alarid contends, failed to investigate the Visegrad crimes properly and has not been able to call evidence which would prove his client’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. This is why, the defense counsel argued, Milan Lukic should be acquitted on all counts in the indictment.
The defense of the second accused, Sredoje Lukic, will deliver its closing argument tomorrow afternoon.
Before the closing arguments, the last prosecution witness, Dutch handwriting expert Wil Fagel took the stand. Fagel concluded that the signature of former police commander in Visegrad, Risto Perisic, was forged on the document corroborating Milan Lukic’s alibi for the fire in the Pionirska Street. In the cross-examination of the Dutch handwriting expert, the defense implied that Perisic intentionally signed the document differently in order to be able to deny the authenticity of his signatures later and avoid any responsibility for the crimes. In its final brief the defense contends that Milan Lukic was indicted to direct the attention away from ‘the true leaders in Visegrad in 1992’, including Risto Perisic.