Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Journalist Says Glavas Assassination Story Fabricated

Croatian reporter tells court that a newspaper report which backed assassination claim was not true.
By Goran Jungvirth
A journalist told the trial of Branimir Glavas at Zagreb County Court this week that a newspaper article describing an assassination attempt on the Croatian politician by a Serb civilian was made up.



Croatian troops who gunned Serb civilian Cedomir Vuckovic down in September 1991 claimed that they were thwarting an assassination attempt against Glavas.



However, other witnesses have testified that Vuckovic was first tortured and then killed on the pretext that he was a “terrorist who wanted to kill Glavas”. Forensic evidence presented during the case suggests that Vuckovic actually died from poisoning, and that he was trying to escape over a fence – not trying to attack Glavas – when he was shot.



Vuckovic is one of the victims cited in the indictment issued against Glavas and six others for war crimes in the town of Osijek in late 1991.



They are charged with torturing civilians in a garage, forcing Vuckovic to drink battery acid. Other civilians were shot and thrown into the Drava river, their mouths bound with gaffer tape, according to the indictment.



Initially, some of Glavas’s co-defendants confirmed he was involved in the crimes, yet when the case came to trial they retracted their statements and accused police of forcing them to confess.



Robert Pauletic, a former reporter with Croatian weekly Slobodni Tjednik, is the named author of an article published at the time headlined “Assassination Attempt on Branimir Glavas Foiled”.



He told judges this week how the piece came to be written. He said that he made some rough notes after a colleague – Slovenian photo-journalist Alojz Krivobrada – told him about the alleged assassination attempt on Glavas by an apparently armed Vuckovic.



Krivobrada – who did not witness the incident, but heard what had happened from Croatian soldiers there – also produced some photographs of the crime scene.



Pauletic gave his notes to his editor, the late Marinko Bozic, who instead of investigating the story to find out if it was true, wrote a piece from the notes and put Pauletic's name on it. According to the witness, Bozic changed and added information when he wrote the article – although he gave no further details on this.



Pauletic said that Glavas probably didn't call Bozic to tell him what to publish in the story, which backed the version of events described by Croatian forces – which was published throuhgout the Croatian media.



Drazen Rajkovic, another journalist and Pauletic’s former colleague, testified that the article could have been written by Bozic.



While Rajkovic didn’t explain what he meant by this, Bozic was seen by many as a journalist who put sensationalism ahead of the truth.



Both journalists told the court that media was often used for propaganda purposes in newly independent Croatia.



Two other reporters, Dario Topic and Davor Spisic, also testified this week.



The journalists published an interview with Glavas in the Croatian regional daily Glas Slavonije in 1992. In the interview, which was read out at a hearing on June 17, the politician described how Osijek was defended against Serb troops and how weapons were obtained.



Both witnesses said the interview was conducted because Glavas was considered a very important and interesting person at the time.



The prosecution have tried to show that Glavas was the main military and political figure in the city from the start of its defence, and that’s why he was interesting to the Croatian media.



Yet Glavas has claimed since the beginning of the trial that he was not the most influential person in Osijek during the war and that other politicians – notably Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, official Vladimir Seks – had much more power than he did.



Glavas’s defence said the Glas Slavonije interview did not prove anything.



The trial continues next week.



Goran Jungvirth is an IWPR-trained journalist in Zagreb.

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