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Croatian Police Deny Forcing Confessions in Glavas Case

A witness says allegations of brutal methods being used during interrogation of two defendants were “notorious lie”.
Croatian policemen took the stand this week to deny having forced defendants in a Zagreb war crimes trial to incriminate themselves.

Defendants Gordana Getos-Magdic and Zdravko Dragic have both complained that police pressurised them into confessing that they were involved in the murder of Serb civilians.

Along with five other Croatians, including powerful politician Branimir Glavas, Getos-Magdic and Dragic now say they did not take part in the murder of any civilians during the 1991-5 war of independence.

Judge Zeljko Horvatovic read out a part of Getos-Magdic’s statement in which she accused the police of brutality, but the allegations were strongly denied by policeman Antonijo Gerovac.

“It is a notorious lie that during the investigation of the third defendant (Getos-Magdic) cruel, brutal and monstrous methods were used,” said Gerovac. He added that the interrogation was conducted according to the law and without any coercion.

As his colleague Zeljko Mikulic explained, Getos-Magdic came to the police acting arrogantly, and initially refused to cooperate.

“That contact with her lasted about a couple of hours when Mrs Getos said that she didn’t want to state anything, at least not in a formal way, because she was afraid for her life and the life of her family,” said Gerovac.

However, the next day she changed her mind and decided to give a statement. Gerovac was not sure what had prompted her to think again.

“Then, interrogation began with prosecutor Zeljko Krpan attending as well as a recording secretary. Because it lasted for hours we paused whenever someone requested it and everything passed without problems,” he said.

He added that, after giving a statement, Getos-Magdic and her lawyer read it and carefully looked at the record before signing it. Gerovac said no one had any objections.

According to prosecutors, the seven defendants killed Serbs in two separate incidents - the so-called sellotape and garage cases - now united into a single indictment.

In the garage case – so called because it took place in the garage of a municipal building in the town of Osijek – civilians were tortured and, in one case, forced to drink battery acid. In the other case, civilians’ mouths were covered in sticky tape before they were shot and thrown into the River Drava.

The trial was due to continue all week, but was adjourned because defendant Mirko Sivic was unwell. An expert witness was due to give evidence about handwriting, but lawyers decided not to call him to the stand.

Sivic’s attorney asked for a medical expert to determine if his client is fit to take part in the trial, which is scheduled to continue next week.

Meanwhile, Glavas appeared in parliament, to which he was re-elected to in November. The new assembly lifted his immunity in order to continue the trial against him but allowed him to remain at liberty.

Glavas has also continued his battle with the Croatian weekly Feral. Drago Hedl, editor of Feral and an IWPR contributor, was the first journalist to write about war crimes against Serb civilians in Osijek.

The latest controversy appeared last week when Feral published what it said was the text of a threatening letter sent to Hedl, under the headline “Glavas’ Threats”. Glavas’ attorneys, who denied their client was connected to the letter, announced they would sue Feral for a million kuna (around 137,000 euro).

Feral, which says the case is an attempt to intimidate the media, announced this week it would contact the European Commission and all international bodies and warn them about the “scandalous course of the trial of Branimir Glavas and the shameful events which have accompanied it”.

“It is unprecedented in Europe for a defendant in a serious war crimes case to defend himself without any restriction on his movements,” said a Feral editorial on February 21.

Goran Jungvirth is an IWPR reporter in Zagreb.

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