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Bosnian court acquits Srebrenica's Muslim defender at retrial

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SARAJEVO (Reuters) - An appeals chamber of Bosnia’s war crimes court acquitted on Friday former Bosnian Muslim commander Naser Oric of human rights violations and the killings of three Serb prisoners of war in and around Srebrenica in the country’s 1992-95 conflict.

Oric, regarded as a hero by Bosnian Muslims, led the defense of Srebrenica, a besieged town that eventually fell to Bosnian Serb forces in 1995 who then killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.

The second instance verdict was delivered after the court in June revoked its previous ruling, clearing Oric and fellow soldier Sabahudin Muhic of guilt, and ordered a new trial after the prosecutor complained of criminal procedures violations.

The appeals chamber found discrepancies in the statements of a key protected witness and “could not find them credible and establish beyond a reasonable doubt the responsibility” of Oric and Muhic for the alleged crimes, said judge Tihomir Lukes.

The verdict is final and cannot be appealed.

Branislav Dukic, the head of an association of Bosnian Serb prisoners of war, said the ruling was shameful. “All Serbs should leave the state judiciary in response,” he said.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted Oric of war crimes against Serbs in 2008, but he was arrested again in June 2015 in Switzerland on a warrant from Serbia accusing him of killing three Bosnian Serb prisoners of war early in the conflict.

During the war the United Nations declared Srebrenica a “safe area” but Dutch troops failed to prevent its capture by Bosnian Serb forces.

Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky