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Nazi Camp Commander Denies Charges

June 29, 1999

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ A former World War II concentration camp commander denied today that he had tortured and killed inmates and accused surviving prisoners of lying about him in court.

Dino Sakic, 77, acknowledged that he briefly commanded the notorious Jasenovac camp that was the worst of more than 20 concentration camps run by the then Nazi puppet state in Croatia. Tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats perished at the camp between 1941 and 1945.

``I categorically deny that while I was in charge of Jasenovac, the inmates were starved or forced to hard labor they died of,″ Sakic said, in his final testimony. ``I also deny that there were alleged liquidations of the sick or those deemed unable to work.″

Sakic has been blamed for the deaths of about 2,000 people who died while he ran the camp from April to November of 1944. Sakic, during his testimony, claimed he commanded Jasenovac for three months, from July to October. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

``I never tortured or killed out of capriciousness or any other reasons,″ he said. ``During the 92 days that I ran the camp, nothing remotely similar to what witnesses falsely testified about, had happened.″

More than 30 survivors of the camp testified against Sakic at the trial, recalling gruesome scenes of torture, untreated illnesses, random killings and mass executions.

But now, more than 50 years later, survivors’ memories of dates and faces are dim _ only a few of them implicated Sakic directly in the killings or linked crimes committed there to the exact period when he was in charge of the camp.

Sakic was extradited to Croatia last June, after living a peaceful life in his Argentina sanctuary for more than half a century.

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