Momcilo Perisic: Yugoslav army chief conviction overturned

image captionMomcilo Perisic was convicted of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity in 2011

A Serbian general sentenced to 27 years for crimes against humanity has been released on appeal.

Momcilo Perisic, who commanded the Yugoslav army during the wars in Bosnia and Croatia, was found guilty after a trial in 2011.

Judges in the Hague said Mr Perisic had not directed ethnic Serb forces in Bosnia to use military aid sent from Belgrade for the commission of crimes.

They ordered him to be released with immediate effect.

Judges in his appeal also ruled that he had not been in a position to discipline soldiers for shelling the Croatian capital, Zagreb.

In the 2011 trial he was convicted of aiding and abetting crimes, but acquitted of a direct role in the Srebrenica massacre.

"While Mr Perisic may have known of VRS [Serb Army of Republika Srpska, VRS] crimes, the Yugoslav Army aid he facilitated was directed towards the VRS's general war effort rather than VRS crimes," Theodor Meron, president of the appeals chamber at the tribunal in The Hague, said.

Mr Perisic had always insisted that he was not aware of or responsible for atrocities.

The BBC's Guy De Launey, in Belgrade, said that a twitch of an eye was all the response that Mr Perisic gave to the verdict.

Our correspondent adds that Mr Perisic's release might restore some faith in the tribunal's neutrality among people in Serbia.

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