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

Lawyers Accuse Glavas Judge of Playing Politics

They say trial postponed so it wouldn’t have any influence on parliamentary elections due later this month.
By Goran Jungvirth
Lawyers for Croatian politician Branimir Glavas have accused the judges in his war crimes trial in Zagreb of bowing to political pressure in their decision to delay the case by restarting it all over again.



During the three hearings that Glavas already had before the court last month, the judges accepted 250 of the more than 270 proposed witnesses.



The proceedings had earlier been delayed by Glavas going on hunger strike, by defence requests that a judge be replaced, and now by the court’s decision to replace a judge. That meant the case had to be restarted.



Glavas, formerly a member of parliament and one of Croatia’s most powerful politicians, is among six men accused of abducting and murdering a group of Serb civilians during the Croatian war in 1991. He says the charges were cooked up by his political opponents.



Glavas’s lawyer Veljko Miljevic told reporters that it was no coincidence the delay meant the next hearing would not be until after parliamentary elections set for November 25.



“This is a matter which doesn’t concern law. This is a matter of high politics and that means elections. The Supreme Court will be deciding about our appeals until the elections happen and then we’ll have the chance actually to get some work done after that,” he said.



Vladimir Sisljagic of Glavas’ political party, the Croatian Democratic Assembly of Slavonija and Baranja, HDSSB, said the decision to start the trial again was motivated by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader’s desire to keep Glavas out of the electoral campaign.



“The hearings should take place this whole week. Sanader canceled the hearings and scheduled them for December 3,” he said.



“He doesn’t want the public to hear Glavas’s defence and that is why Sanader has stopped the hearings. The judge unfortunately listens to the politicians like a poodle.”



The president of the Zagreb court did not give a formal reason why one of the judges, Ljubica Magdalenic, was replaced by Zeljko Klinzic.



Court spokesman Judge Kresimir Devcic said the accusations about political interference were false, but refused to explained why Judge Magdalenic, who was the judge held in reserve to prevent the court case being delayed if another judge had to bow out, had stepped down.



Although Glavas’ imprisonment means he cannot personally campaign for his party, he released a tape with a message for his supporters. He said that Sanader’s hopes that his party would collapse if he were arrested had proved to be false.



Glavas is implicated in the “sellotape case” (where some victims’ mouths were sealed with tape before they were shot and dumped in the river Drava) and the “garage case” (in which some victims, including one who was forced to drink battery acid, were killed in a garage).



The judges rejected a defence request not to hear evidence from Krunoslav Fehir, a key witness who was previously a suspect but who agreed to testify against the six men. The prosecution sees him as central to its case against Glavas. Judges decided that his testimony will be heard in secret.



Glavas’ defence requested testimony from parliamentary speaker Vladimir Seks. They say that since he was chairman of the Osijek Crisis Management Committee, he would have information regarding the crimes.



Seks has stated that he is prepared to testify.



The trial will resume on December 3 and six more hearings are planned before the end of the year.



Goran Jungvirth is an IWPR journalist in Zagreb.

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