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Bosnian Serb Cousins Found Guilty Of Arson Killings

Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic at the UN war crimes tribunal
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb cousins Milan and Sredoje Lukic have been convicted by the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal of crimes involving the burning alive and killing of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-1995 war.

Milan Lukic, 41, who prosecutors said led a Serb paramilitary group known as the "White Eagles" or "Avengers," was sentenced to life in prison for the burning and killing of at least 119 Bosnians in two separate incidents in June 1992.

Sredoje Lukic, 48, who prosecutors said was also a member of the unit, was given 30 years imprisonment. The court ruled it had not been proved that he was present at one of the attacks.

Both men had pleaded not guilty to all charges and said they were not present in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad at the time of the crimes. Defence lawyers had requested acquittals.

"The perpetration by Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic of crimes in this case is characterized by a callous and vicious disregard for human life," Judge Patrick Robinson said, reading the verdict.

The court found about 59 Bosnian Muslims were burned alive in a house set ablaze with an accelerant and an explosive, while at least 60 people died after being barricaded inside another home before grenades were thrown into the building.

Judge Robinson said the court found Milan Lukic guilty of both incidents, adding he played a dominant role in the attacks in that he personally closed the door of one of the houses, set them on fire, and shot at people who tried to escape.

The court found Sredoje Lukic was not present at the second incident, but his presence at the first "substantially contributed to the deaths" despite the fact he did not set fire to the house or shoot at the victims.

Milan Lukic was convicted on 21 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of laws or customs of war, including murder, inhumane acts, cruel treatment and extermination. Sredoje was convicted on seven counts.

Milan Lukic was also convicted of shooting and killing 12 Bosnian Muslim men on the bank of the River Drina.

After seven years on the run, Milan Lukic was arrested in Argentina in August 2005. His cousin Sredoje surrendered to the Bosnian Serb authorities the following month.

The trial started in July last year.