Croatia: Extradition For Alleged Communist Crimes Not Statute-Barred

Josip Perkovic    Photo: Dalibor Urukalovic/PIXSELL

Josip Perkovic Photo: Dalibor Urukalovic/PIXSELL

It’s been a week of nail-biting suspense in Croatia regarding extradition to Germany of Josip Perkovic for crimes associated with specific communist crimes (murder of Croatian émigrés) committed by the former communist Yugoslavia secret police (UDBA).

In spite of all the massive pressure and infuriating underhanded dirty tricks by the pro-communist government and lobby in Croatia to prevent Germany from processing in its courts crimes committed under political motives by the former Yugoslav communist regime a bright dawn has released hope for justice for victims of those crimes.
The Croatian Supreme Court has ruled: Croatia will extradite to Germany Josip Perkovic, former communist Yugoslavia secret police operative who is wanted by Germany for allegedly masterminding the murder in 1983 of Croat émigré Stjepan Djurekovic.
Although the Supreme Court in Croatia ruled on extradition last Friday 17 January, the decision was published yesterday (Tuesday 21st January).
Croatia, which joined the EU in July, initially refused to extradite Perkovic, and two days before joining the EU on 1st July 2013 the pro-communist government led by Social Democrats had changed the country’s relevant law and insisted that only crimes committed after 2002 could be subject to EU arrest warrants/extraditions. Under EU and German pressure,  Croatia amended its laws in line with the EU standards only a couple of months ago, and still its courts ruled differently on same circumstances recently. i.e. judicially unsustainable differences in interpreting statute of limitation had resulted in one District court ruling extradition and the other against, as I wrote in my previous post.
There’s a window of 10 days from the Supreme Court decision within which Perkovic is to be handed over to German authorities.

A translation from the Croatian language of the most relevant parts of the Supreme Court ruling is as follows:

The Supreme court of the Republic of Croatia by its panel consisting of Supreme court judges, headed by Lidija Grubic Radakovec as panel president and dr. sc. Zdenko Konjic and dr. sc. Marin Mrcela as panel members, with assistance from court adviser Maja Ivanovic Stilinovic as minute taker, in the criminal case against the wanted person Josip Perkovic, for a crime from Article 211, in association with Article 27 of the Crimes Act of Federal Republic of Germany, deliberating on appeals from the State Attorney and the wanted person person Josip Perkovic against whom extradition warrant exists, lodged against the judgment of the District court in Zagreb on 8 January 2014, No. KV-EUN-2/14, at the panel meeting held 17 January 2014 has delivered the following decision:

The Appeals by the State Attorney and the person subject to extradition warrant Josip Perkovic are rejected as unfounded.


District court decision in Zagreb under point I., based on Article 29. Clause 4 and 5 of Judicial cooperation in criminal matters with states members of European Union Act (…) based on the European arrest warrant issued by General federal prosecutor of Federal Republic of Germany (No.) extradition of the wanted person Josip Perkovic is permitted…for the purposes of criminal proceedings against criminal acts from Article 211 in association with Article 29 Crimes Act Fed. Rep. of Germany.

The wanted person has agreed to be returned to the Republic of Croatia after the completion of criminal proceedings for the purposes of serving of the sentence and the principle of special circumstances has been taken into consideration and extradition is permitted under the following conditions:

–    that no criminal proceedings or serving of prison sentence for any other criminal act perpetrated before extradition are permitted against J.P. without the permission from the Republic of Croatia;

–    that he cannot be extradited to any other country member for the purposes of conducting criminal proceedings or serving prison sentence for crimes committed prior to extradition, without the permission of the Republic of Croatia;

–    that he cannot be extradited to a third country for the purposes of conducting criminal proceedings or serving prison sentence for crimes committed prior to extradition, without the permission of the Republic of Croatia;

–    that after final court judgment on criminal sanctions he be returned to the Republic of Croatia for the purposes of serving the criminal sanctions.

… As (temporary) measure (pending extradition) of caution it is forbidden for Josip Perkovic to travel outside the city of Zagreb…

… an act is punishable in accordance with the law enacted in the country where the accused is found (the country upon which arrest warrant has been served, the country that executes that arrest warrant) and the country that seeks extradition in order to conduct the proceedings (the country that seeks extradition, the country that issues the arrest warrant), in which it is enough that the act falls under the criminal law in both countries’.

…if the absolute statute of limitations has not, at time of decision, been reached on the basis of a former legislation the decisions are based in accordance with the current legislation and in the case of extension of statute of limitations under the same legislation .  Accordingly, when dealing with criminal acts under the consideration of double sanctions, and this case does not fall within that category, the event of relative statute of limitations having been reached cannot be a foundation for the rejection of an arrest warrant, but instead, it is exclusively the coming into effect of the absolute statute of limitations at the time when the decision is made.

…It’s not only that the Appellant had not offered evidence which would reasonably show the circumstances under which the court process in Germany would breach the principles of just proceedings, but that possibility was not even shown as likely.  Instead of that, the Appellant offers a personal assessment of the credibility of evidence from a court judgment, emphasizing the testimony of one witness … in which that witness ‘retracts his statements and explains why he gave a false statement’ and two newspaper clippings that write about (non)credibility of the witness’ statement.

Appellant’s view of the (non)credibility of one witness’ statement, accompanied by documentation, which has not passed the examination required under criminal procedure, is not adequate for credibility nor for any eventuality that at court proceedings in Germany, that still needs to implement and assess needed evidence, would deny the right to a just hearing to the wanted person…

In simple words, the Supreme Court in Croatia has ruled that Josip Perkovic must be extradited to Germany. That the time has not been reached after which proceedings for the alleged crime are barred. That, given that the matter is one of criminal offense of murder it is necessary to apply extradition in accordance with the European arrest warrant if statute of limitations has not been reached in the country that is processing the crime. Perkovic claimed that he would not receive a fair hearing in Germany and based his claim on the recent statement by Vinko Sindicic that he had lied under oath in the court hearing in Germany, which convicted Krunoslav Prates for the murder of Stjepan Djurekovic.  The Supreme Court found that Perkovic had provided no credible evidence to corroborate him claim of an unfair hearing in Germany.

Perkovic still has the ability to appeal to the Constitutional court against his extradition. Whether he will take up that option is yet unclear even if he seems to have accepted the fate of extradition and claims innocence. Desperate people, take desperate measures – so anything can happen.

Whether Josip Perkovic is eventually found innocent or guilty of criminal charges brought against him in Germany does not really matter in the wider scheme of things. What is most important though, is the fact that the court case will open up wider the window through which the world will see more of the horrors served against Croats by the totalitarian regime of the former Yugoslavia. The case will strengthen the resolve to pursue justice for victims of communist crimes and weaken the resistance for such justice by the former communists and the so-called antifascists who have for decades justified horrible crimes in the name of “liberty”! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Last-Ditch Efforts To Prevent Extradition For Communist Crimes

Josip Perkovic (L) Zdravko Mustac (R)

Josip Perkovic (L) Zdravko Mustac (R)

The District court in Zagreb ruled on Wednesday 8 January that the communist-era intelligence chief, Josip Perkovic, could be extradited to Germany where he is wanted over a killing of Croatian emigrant Stjepan Djurekovic in the 1980s.
On Thursday 9 January the District court in Velika Gorica (near Zagreb airport) ruled that the second ex-communist secret service chief, Zdravko Mustac, couldn’t be extradited to Germany (wanted for the same crime as Perkovic) because of Statute of Limitations.

Some 15 Km apart, two courts in Croatia, rule in opposite directions – on the same crime of murder that occurred in Germany in 1983!

You may well ask: how on Earth can this be possible?
Aren’t all courts in the country supposed to rule in similar ways on the same cases, under the same laws? You’d think so. But, we are dealing here with what seem to be last-ditch efforts by lawyers defending Josip Perkovic to prevent his extradition to Germany to face the German courts on what is classified as a “communist crime” or political assassination of persons by the ex-Yugoslav communist regime.

So, since last Wednesday, Perkovic’s lawyer Ante Nobilo (whose law office also defends Mustac!) has been working frantically, trying to make a case against extradition court decision, pending an appeal. He went on saying how Statute of Limitations or related laws had changed a number of times since 1983 and that his client has the right to chose the one that suits him best. I.e., chose the one under which Statute of Limitations in Croatia precludes his client from being extradited.  Nobilo expressed the view that Perkovic would not receive a just trial in Germany, which is ludicrous! Yesterday, 14 January, Nobilo stated that he has received a statement from Vinko Sindicic (a Yugoslav communist secret police operative convicted in the UK to 15 years prison for attempted assassination of Croat émigré Nikola Stedul in 1988 in Scotland and whose name has also been associated with the murder in Germany of Croat family Sevo) in which he says that he had lied (committed perjury) in the German court which convicted Krunoslav Prates in relation to the murder of the same Stjepan Djurekovic, Perkovic and Mustac are sought for by German court – how miraculously convenient!

To make matters worse for those yearning for justice for victims of communist crimes, the Croatian State Attorney Office has now shown its full colours: it too wants to stifle the extradition to Germany.
Yesterday, 14 January Croatia’s Office of State Attorney, as party to these two cases in Croatian courts, has filed an appeal NOT against the decision made by the court in Velika Gorica against extradition of Mustac BUT against the Zagreb court decision to extradite Perkovic! This has enraged many in Croatia as it’s seen as yet another ploy to defer or prevent processes dealing with communist crimes. Some say that the Croatian State Attorney is on the path to open a whole new trial in Croatia in the case of the murder of Djurekovic in 1983 in Germany! If this is true then the State Attorney, Mladen Bajic, is handing out an indictment of bad and rotten practices against German courts and German judiciary (?).

Some say that Germany as country seeking extradition should file an appeal, while Zeljko Olujic, a well known lawyer and former State Attorney in Croatia, sees the moves by the Croatian Office of State Attorney as attempts to save Perkovic and Mustac from accountability for acts they committed in the former communist Yugoslavia. “That is the opinion of the State Attorney who currently finds himself in times of re-elections and who exclusively flirts with politics, which is scandalous. This what’s happening in Croatia is the twilight of the legal system and the rule of law in the state,” said Olujic for Croatian TV news.

So, to say matters simply, one would have expected the Office of State Attorney to take a different path in ensuring that both District courts delivering on the same case, but different defendants, make similar or same judgments regarding extradition. After all what kind of a country can Croatia be when courts can interpret a simple matter such as Statute of Limitations for murder in such conflicting ways! Only a country which is failing scandalously in transitioning from communism into democracy and only a country that has as its State Attorney a person with heavy political leanings when there should be none – I’d say! The Office State Attorney by appealing one of the court decisions, the one to do with Perkovic’s extradition rather than appealing the other, the one of Mustac’s non-extradition, has clearly taken sides. The side it has taken – not to extradite Perkovic – seems to me to be an attack on judiciary, an attack on democracy, an attack on the people and victims of communist crimes to whom these cases under Germany’s arrest warrant mean a great deal.

A spark of good hope in these matters, though, is that the family of Stjepan Djurekovic has, according to Croatian HRT TV news, filed an appeal against the court decision in Velika Gorica and seek Mustac’s extradition or that all courts dealing with the issue of extradition rule similarly. Whether the court will accept their appeal is yet to be seen given that they were not a party to the proceedings.

After all these appeals in lower courts are exhausted we may yet be pleasantly surprised because the Supreme court in Croatia will be the step in this process that will deliver the final ruling on extradition of Perkovic and Mustac and it will need to rule on equal ground in both cases. We may yet celebrate the extradition of Perkovic and Mustac to Germany. But then again, we may be in for an even bumpier and a more torturous path for dealing with communist crimes in Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


Spies for Tito and murderous Communist Yugoslavia infiltrated the BBC

Mitja Mersol 1974

According to Jack Grimston of the Sunday Times (25 March), and The Australian, newly released secret files in Slovenia (a former Yugoslav state) revealed that BBC World Service was infiltrated by a ring of informants run by the secret police of Communist Yugoslavia (UDBA).

The spies had the task of briefing Yugoslav Marshall Tito and his secret service on their Yugoslav and British colleagues and on dissident émigrés living in Britain.

One of the informants unmasked is Mitja Mersol, currently an MP in Slovenia, who worked as an announcer for the BBC World Service during 1970’s. His UDBA codename: “Linguist”

The secret files portray London as a fertile and active ground for covert cold war operations and maneuvering between Yugoslav agents and anti-Communist émigrés,

Jure Brankovic from the Slovenian Pop TV station reported on the secret papers as showing that UDBA received a stream of information from the spies at BBC from 1950’s to 1980’s.

The secret papers show that before Mersol started at the BBC in 1971, he was issued with a special camera by the UDBA to photograph documents and he was instructed in the use of a secret writing system.

Mersol gained the confidence of colleagues and émigrés, reporting back on topics such as their anti-Communist plotting, their love lives and who was in the pay of Scotland Yard.

The Sunday Times reports that last week Mersol said that he had worked in a way that had ‘harmed no one’.

Adding, “a man does many things in his life. Every man is a judge of his own actions and I have long ago drawn a line under what happened 40 years ago. We at that time lived in a different country, with a different system and in different circumstances.”

Mersol may not have physically harmed anyone but as a spy for one of the most murderous secret services in Europe (more murderous than the Soviet bloc’s one, as claimed by Dr. John R. Schindler, author of book: “Agents Provocateurs: Terrorism, Espionage, and the Secret Struggle for Yugoslavia, 1945 – 1990” )

It stands to logic and reason that he contributed to the information needed by UDBA to plan and execute assassinations, whether her knew what UDBA was up to or not. But in any case, the fact that UDBA was on a killing spree of Croatians and other anti-Communists living abroad  was public knowledge and public suspicion so it would seem highly unlikely that he himself did not know anything about UDBA’s operations.

Dr Schindler asserts that Tito was useful to the West, so UDBA crimes were mostly ignored, even when Yugoslav agents killed abroad, frequently.

The former communist regime in Yugoslavia has a terrible history of assassinations directed against its opponents. Between 1946 and 1991 the many UDBA assassinations and assassination attempts victims were mostly Croatian émigrés, although others were targeted. The attacks were usually carried out by small teams consisting of a trigger-man supported by a spotter and were always carefully planned. The attacks were often made as targets entered or left their homes since this was the point at which they were most vulnerable and where a case of mistaken identity was least likely.

The last known UDBA hit in Britain took place on 20 October 1988 when Nikola Stedul, a 51-year-old Croatian émigré, was gunned down outside his home in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. For various reasons, the attack did not go smoothly. Stedul survived it although he was severely wounded in the head. His assailant was arrested a few hours later at Heathrow airport and identified as one Vinko Sindicic—a Yugoslav known to Western intelligence services.

The entire incident demonstrated the bankruptcy of the Yugoslav system, Brian Gallagher wrote in 2003. Furthermore, the article written by Gallagher points to the fact that Sindicic made his way back to Croatia in 1998 and that charges against him for the murder of Croatian dissident Bruno Busic in Paris was thrown out in 2000 for lack of evidence.

No surprise there. In 2000, former Communists (Social Democrats) were in government and former communist Stjepan Mesic was the president. They weren’t going to bend over backwards to look for or produce evidence they may have known about as former high-ranking communists.

One can say that while many Croatian people won independence under Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) slogan “Everything for Croatia” the antifascists within it (aka communists) operated under the slogan that came very close to “Everything against Croatia”.

Who knows what new documents and evidence of such Communist crimes will also see light of day and whether they will be processed in courts as they should. Whatever comes out of these revelations one thing is for sure: another flag of truth about why Croatians had no alternative but to free themselves from the oppression and prison that was Yugoslavia for them.  One can only hope that Mersol, having said that under Yugoslavia people lived under a different system and different circumstances, will take the matter further and enlighten the world some more about those circumstances. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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