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Hunger-Striking Glavas Released

Croat politician ends protest after his demand to be released pending trial is met.
By Goran Jungvirth
The Croatian independent parliamentary deputy suspected of war crimes, Branimir Glavaš, was released from custody on November 2, because the authorities concluded his 37-day hunger strike seriously endangered his health.



The same day, investigative judge Zdenko Posavec, suspended an investigation against the accused.



Last week, a team of doctors said Glavas' health had deteriorated so much that he was unfit to follow the court proceedings.



This fulfilled the requirement for the application of the provision of the Law on Criminal Procedure under which an investigation may be temporarily suspended on account of the suspect being incapacitated.



In June, Zagreb County Court began investigating Glavas on suspicion of ordering the murder of two Serb civilians in the town of Osijek in 1991 and the torture of another three.



In October, a second investigation by the Osijek County Court examined his alleged role in the killings of at least six Serbs in the area in 1991.



Glavas - a wartime mayor of the town and a Croatian army general - was arrested a week after the second inquiry was launched.



But on his detention in Zagreb prison, Glavas went on a hunger strike, claiming the case against him was fabricated and politically motivated.



He refused to take food for 37 days, demanding to be released pending trial. Finally, Judge Posavec relented and Glavas was released from custody.



For many observers, this was seen as another victory for Glavas, who appeared to play games with Croatian judiciary ever since the investigations into his alleged involvement in war crimes were launched. He was suspected of intimidating witnesses and obstructing enquiries - which was one of the main reasons why Judge Posavec in the end issued a warrant for his arrest.



The Zagreb county prosecutor’s office filed an appeal this week against Judge Posavec’s decision to release Glavas from custody and to suspend the first investigation into his involvement in war crimes due to his deteriorating health.



The appeal will be considered by a panel of judges of the Zagreb County Court.



There were mixed reactions from Croatia’s politicians to Glavas’s release.



Parliament speaker Vladimir Šeks, who was once Glavas’s close associate, welcomed the news.



“I am glad Glavas will be free pending trial,” he said.



Prime Minister Ivo Sanader refused to comment on the matter because he said he didn’t want to interfere with the judiciary.



“There is no justification for avoiding justice. Any further politicising of the Glavas case could have permanent negative repercussions for the Republic of Croatia and its European perspective,” said Croatia’s president Stjepan Mesic in statement issued shortly after Glavas was released.



The head of the European Commission's delegation, Vincent Degert, expressed his concern over the new development. He said he would request to see an explanation of Judge Posavec's decision so that EC officials could understand what had actually happened.



“We follow every case, particularly this one which is important as it is about war crimes, war crimes victims and the protection of witnesses,” said Degert in Zagreb this week.



The Glavas development coincided with the decision of ultra-nationalist Serbina politician Vojislav Šešelj to end his hunger strike at the Hague tribunal this week after it met some of his demands.



The former Slovenian ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro, Borut Šuklje, accused the two war crimes suspects of trying to destabilise the governments of Croatia and Serbia with their hunger strikes.



Šuklje said that Glavas was trying to push for new parliamentary elections in Croatia, while Seselj wanted to influence elections in Serbia scheduled for January.



The head of Glavas's medical team in Osijek, Dr Aleksandar Vcev, has dismissed some media reports that Glavas had suffered a stroke as a result of his prolonged hunger strike.



He said Glavas's physical and mental condition is serious, but his life is no longer in danger.



Goran Jungvirth is an IWPR contributor in Zagreb.

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