THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Former Bosnian Croat leader Jadranko Prlic was sentenced to 25 years in jail on Wednesday for "ethnic cleansing" that included the murder, rape and expulsion of Muslims from Bosnia during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague also sentenced five others, including Slobodan Praljak, Croatia's former assistant minister of defense, to jail terms of between 10 and 20 years.
The judges said Croatia, which on July 1 will become the second former Yugoslav republic to join the European Union, had been involved in the plan, and that late President Franjo Tudjman believed ethnic cleansing was necessary to create an ethnically pure state that could be joined up to Croatia.
Reading from a summary of a judgment that ran to more than 2,600 pages, presiding judge Jean-Claude Antonetti said murders, rapes and deportations had been committed by the armed forces of the self-proclaimed ethnic Croat state of Herceg-Bosna.
"The crimes were not the random acts of a few unruly soldiers," he said. "They were the result of a plan ... to permanently remove the Muslim population of Herceg-Bosna."
The six were also held responsible for the destruction of the Ottoman-era Old Bridge at Mostar, whose shelling became a symbol of the ravages of the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)