BELGRADE (Reuters) - A cousin of Ratko Mladic who hid the wanted Bosnian Serb genocide suspect at his home until Mladic’s arrest in May last year was given a suspended prison sentence on Tuesday.
Branislav Mladic says his cousin, who is now standing trial on charges including genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys, lived at his home in the village of Lazarevo in northeastern Serbia for five of the 16 years he evaded arrest.
A court in Belgrade sentenced him to a year in jail, suspended for three years, under a plea bargain with Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor, the prosecutor’s office said.
Speaking of the night the Bosnian Serb wartime commander appeared at his door, Branislav Mladic told the Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti this month:
“I heard his voice and recognized him: ‘Turn the light off!’ I opened the door and as he sat he said: ‘Only you, me and him up there can know that I‘m here. No one else’.”
“He’s one of mine and I won’t disown him.”
Ten others accused of aiding Mladic were arrested in 2006 and are currently standing trial in Belgrade. Others still are being investigated.
The issue of Mladic’s so-called ‘helpers’ is one of many being watched by the European Union as it weighs whether to open accession talks with Serbia, which became an official candidate for membership of the bloc in March.
Mladic, 70, lived openly in Serbia from the end of the 1992-95 Bosnian war to the fall of late Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 when he went underground, hiding in barracks and aided by hardliners in the military and state security service. He went on trial in May but ill-health has slowed proceedings.
Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Jon Hemming