National celebrations in Croatia begin with the release of Ante Gotovina from The Hague, after a successful appeal to his 24-year sentence.
Church bells across Croatia chimed loudly and enthusiastically shortly before 10am on November 16, 2012, as news from Holland confirmed the release of Mladen Markac and Ante Gotovina from a court in The Hague, reports Dalmatian national daily, Slobodna Dalmacija.
The two high-profile generals had received lengthy sentences from the International War Crimes Tribunal in April 2011, after being found guilty of crimes against Serbian civilians in the war in former Yugoslavia.
During his appeal Gotovina, speaking in French, had defended his position, according to the Croatian Times:
"As a man, I am sorry for every lost life and destroyed property.
"I cannot, nevertheless, be responsible for what others have done or failed to do while I was already far away in Bosnia.
"I am convinced that I fulfilled my duties in the best possible way.
"We were in a battle for life and death with the enemy and we were fighting to liberate our land," he said.
Vigils were held all over the country last night, including several on the island of Hvar (Photo Jaksa Kuzmicic, Foto For)
The celebrations following the verdict are in contrast to candlelit vigils held around the country last night, with the town of Hvar's citizens gathering on the main square.