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In Croatia Ex-general acquitted of war crimes given government post

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Gotovina's "advice will be precious given the challenges facing the country and the region".

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Croatian ex-general Ante Gotovina, pictured in 2012, has been named as a "special adviser to the ministry of defence" play

Croatian ex-general Ante Gotovina, pictured in 2012, has been named as a "special adviser to the ministry of defence"

(AFP/File)

A retired general acquitted of war crimes was on Thursday given a key post in Croatia's defence ministry, the HINA news agency reported.

Ante Gotovina, 61, was acquitted of war crimes on appeal in 2012 before the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) alongside another former general, Mladen Markac.

On Thursday, the Croatian government named Gotovina as a "special adviser to the ministry of defence" during a meeting in the town of Vukovar in the east of the country, HINA said.

The meeting was held on the eve of the 25th anniversary of when Vukovar fell to Serbian separatists during the 1991-95 Croatian War of Independence.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Gotovina's "advice will be precious given the challenges facing the country and the region".

According to newspaper reports in France and Croatia, the former general, who has acquired French nationality, has had a chequered history.

French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique and Croatian newspaper Jutarnji List claimed he once served in the French Foreign Legion, worked for French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's security detail, spent time in a French jail, trained paramilitary groups in Latin America and was once involved in kidnapping and extortion.

Gotovina and Markac were initially sentenced to 24 and 18 years in jail respectively when they were found guilty of the murder of 324 ethnic Serbs and the forced displacement of some 90,000 others during an operation led by the former.

That Operation Storm practically ended the war sparked by Croatia's proclamation of independence from the Serb-dominated former Yugoslavia.

It is the first political posting assigned to Gotovina since his acquittal, although both he and Markac were given positions on an advisory security body 18 months ago.

Gotovina will link up again with a former brother in arms, Defence Minister Damir Kristicevic, another former general.

Krsticevic welcomed his former colleague and said he was "convinced" that Gotovina will "make a significant contribution to maintaining national security".

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