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Jubilation, recrimination as Hague appeal tribunal frees jailed Croatian officers

Nikola Solic / AP

War veterans celebrate during the live broadcast from the International War Crimes Tribunal, on the main square in Zagreb, Croatia on Nov. 16, 2012. Appeals judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal have overturned the convictions of two Croat generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against Serb civilians in a 1995 military blitz.

Bas Czerwinski / Pool via AP

Former Croatian Army Generals Mladen Markac, right, and Ante Gotovina, left, enter the courtroom of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (ICTY) for their appeal judgement in The Hague, Netherlands, on Nov. 16, 2012.

Reuters reports — The most senior Croatian military officer convicted of war crimes during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s was released after an appeal on Friday and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said the "political decision" would open old wounds in the region.

General Ante Gotovina was cleared by an appeals chamber of the U.N. war crimes tribunal after being convicted of targeting hospitals and other civilian institutions during a Croatian army operation to retake its Krajina region from rebel ethnic Serbs.

Gotovina, hailed as a hero at home but reviled in neighboring Serbia, was freed along with Croatian police commander Mladen Markac. The two men are expected to fly home later on Friday.

Their acquittals were greeted with jubilation on the streets of the Croatian capital Zagreb but Serbia reacted with anger and dismay. Nikolic said the U.N. tribunal's decision had destroyed its neutrality. Read the full story.

Hrvoje Polan / AFP - Getty Images

A man cries after the UN Yugoslav war crimes court acquitted former generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of charges including war crimes during the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia and ordered them free, in Zagreb on Nov. 16, 2012.

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