Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Final Verdict Delivered in Case of Businessman Tomislav Horvatinčić

ZAGREB, December 4, 2019 - The County Court in the coastal city of Zadar has handed down a final verdict in the case of businessman Tomislav Horvatinčić, charged with causing a maritime accident in which an Italian couple were killed in August 2011.

The court, however, would not confirm media reports that the trial court's conviction of four years and ten months in prison has been upheld.

"The ruling was made on Monday, and on Tuesday it was dispatched to the Municipal Court in Šibenik which delivered the first-instance ruling. That's all I can confirm," Zadar County Court spokesman Hrvoje Visković told Hina on Wednesday.

The Šibenik Municipal Court has not yet formally received the ruling.

The Novi List newspaper said on its front page on Wednesday that the Zadar court had upheld the prison sentence of four years and ten months for Horvatinčić.

Three trials were held against the 77-year-old businessman on the charge that he had run his yacht into the sailing boat of the Italian couple Salpietro and killed them. The third verdict, of March this year, found him guilty and sentenced him to four years and ten months in prison.

More news about the case can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Mustač Extradited to Croatia, Taken to Remetinec Prison

ZAGREB, November 29, 2019 - Former Yugoslav and Croatian intelligence official Zdravko Mustač, who was sentenced by a German court with another Croatian intelligence official, Josip Perković, for involvement in the murder of dissident Stjepan Đureković, was extradited to Croatia on Thursday afternoon.

Mustač arrived in Zagreb aboard a regular flight from Munich around 12:45 and around 14:15 he was admitted to the diagnostics centre of Zagreb's Remetinec Prison. After a medical check-up, he will be transferred to a penitentiary where he will serve the rest of his 40-year prison term.

In late October, Croatia's Supreme Court rejected Mustač's last appeal and his attorney said then that she expected that he could be transferred from Germany to a Croatian prison in about 30 days.

The Supreme Court had rejected as inadmissible Mustač's appeal against its decision upholding an earlier ruling by a Velika Gorica court that Mustač should serve a 40-year prison term to which his verdict by a German court, sentencing him and his associate Perković to life imprisonment for the 1983 murder of Stjepan Đureković, was converted.

The Supreme Court ruled that Mustač's last appeal was inadmissible because the procedure in question concerned the recognition and execution of a foreign court's verdict in line with a special law.

Together with the 77-year-old Mustač, the 74-year-old Perković, too, was convicted by the German court for the same crime and he was transferred to Croatia on July 11.

Even though the German court delivered the same verdict for the two former intelligence officials, the Zagreb County Court, which was in charge of Perković as his residence was in Zagreb, ruled in line with national legislation that he should serve a 30-year prison term. Perković is currently behind bars in Glina.

In August 2016 a Munich court sentenced Perković and Mustač to life imprisonment for their roles in the murder of Đureković, who was killed by as yet unknown perpetrators in Wolfratshausen outside Munich in July 1983.

They both pleaded not guilty and after the German court's verdict they turned to the European Court of Human Rights which they expect to order a new trial.

Mustač's attorney Lidija Horvat recalled that in July 2019 the defence had also filed a complaint of unconstitutionality against the Velika Gorica court ruling and the Supreme Court ruling which imposed and upheld a 40-year prison term against Mustač.

Horvat said they believed that the Croatian courts erroneously applied European law and had therefore asked the Constitutional Court to address the European Court of Justice on the matter of application of the principle of mutual recognition of rulings in criminal cases, to see if by converting the German court's verdict the Croatian courts should have borne in mind that the punishment should not be harsher than it would be if the accused served it in the country where the verdict was handed down.

She recalled in that context that in Germany, where they were sentenced, Mustač and Perković would be granted a so-called obligatory conditional release after 15 years in prison.

More news about the case can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Amendments to the Criminal Code Show Violence Against Women Is Unacceptable

ZAGREB, November 25, 2019 - Amendments to the Criminal Code and harsher penalties show that violence is unacceptable and that it is the duty of all government departments to protect women from any form of violence, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

"We are making the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women out of respect to the Mirabal sisters. The amendments to the Criminal Code and harsher penalties are sending a message that violence is unacceptable and that it is the duty of all government departments to protect women from any form of violence," Plenković said on his Twitter account.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is marked on November 25 in honour of the Mirabal sisters Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa who were assassinated in the Dominican Republic on 25 November 1960 for clandestine activities against Rafael Trujillo's regime.

In mid-October the government sent a package of criminal laws to parliament for adoption that deal with domestic violence and recommended increasing prison sentences for domestic violence and sexual harassment.

More news about the status of women can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 15 November 2019

War Crimes Trials Should Be Completed Before Judges Move to High Criminal Court

ZAGREB, November 15, 2019 - The Documenta nongovernmental organisation on Thursday called on the Justice Ministry to ensure that war crimes trials, including those of Branimir Glavaš and Dragan Perenčević, are completed before judges presiding over those trials take office at the High Criminal Court.

Documenta proposed the adoption of a regulation whereby future High Criminal Court judges Tanja Pavelin and Tomislav Juriša would be obligated to complete the war crimes trials they are currently conducting before assuming their new posts.

Documenta recalled in a statement that under the amended Courts Act, the High Criminal Court was to be established by 1 January, 2020.

"Considering the date specified by the law in question, the question arises of what will happen with the trials currently conducted by the judges who have been appointed to the High Criminal Court," Documenta said in the statement.

The NGO was referring to a trial for war crimes against Serb civilians in Osijek which is being conducted against member of parliament Branimir Glavaš, a trial for crimes against Croat civilians in Petrinja against a member of Croatian Serb rebel forces, Dragan Perenčević, and others, and trials for crimes committed at the Manjača prison camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and for the shelling of Zagreb and Jastrebarsko, which are presided over by Judge Tomislav Juriša.

Completing the trials would be a step forward in dealing with the burden of unresolved and unpunished war crimes and prevent having to again call witnesses whose condition is not good and incurring additional costs for the state budget, as well as avoid new rulings by the European Court of Human Rights against Croatia, the NGO said.

More NGO news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Prosecution Drops Case of Man Who Smashed Bilingual Signs in Vukovar

ZAGREB, November 1, 2019 - Vukovar municipal office of the Chief State Prosecutor has decided not to proceed with the case of Marijan Živković, the father of two soldiers killed in the defence of Croatia, who was charged with smashing Latin-Cyrillic signs on the building of the Vukovar police station in September 2013.

The commercial N1 broadcaster quoted on Friday Živković's lawyer Emil Mitrovski as saying that the case was dropped after the findings of the latest psychiatric examination of his client which shows that at the time when he had smashed the signs, Živković was mentally incapacitated.

Mitrovski said that the local prosecution already sent its decision to the Vukovar Municipal Court where a hearing was to have been held on 5 November.

The lawyer also explained that during that event in 2013, Živković was carried by his emotions and influenced by a prevailing mood in the crowd which was why he was not able to control his conduct.

He added that his client Živković was now a free man.

Živković said that he had received the decision of the prosecution about the discontinuation of the proceedings against him.

"I am a little man, but I am afraid of nothing, and I can only mourn the deaths of my sons," Živković said adding that justice has won and thanked those who supported him with prayers.

The lawyer said that this was the victory of justice and added that after Živković's acquittal in 2016 pending trial, no proceedings should have been conducted at all.

In the meantime, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has written on her Twitter account that the decision of the prosecution to drop this case was the only correct decision.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

More Stringent Legislation to Prevent Domestic Violence

ZAGREB, October 24, 2019 - The Croatian government on Thursday sent into parliamentary procedure several amendments to the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Act and the Protection from Domestic Violence Act which would impose more stringent penalisation with the aim of preventing and countering violence, particularly family violence.

"The important aim of this set of draft amendments is also to make criminal procedure swifter," Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said at the government's meeting.

Amendments of the Penal Code thus envisage that assaults against social workers or teachers would be treated as an assault against official persons.

The changes also introduce stricter penalties for domestic violence and violence against women. Also, in the future the qualification of sexual intercourse without consent would be treated as rape, which will be punishable with one to ten years' imprisonment.

The minimum sentence for domestic violence will be raised from the current three months of imprisonment to a year in prison.

Also, changes of the criminal procedure legislation will make the procedure swifter and in accordance with the EU acquis.

The proposed changes also envisage the abolishing of criminal libel.

So far there have been few cases of treating some acts as criminal libel and the minister said that this offence in the future can be treated through a civil action. If defamation is proven in a civil action, the plaintiff can seek protection and damages, according to the minister's explanation.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković welcomed the annulment of criminal libel as "a signal for the further respect of media freedoms in the country."

Amending the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Act and the Protection from Domestic Violence Act will introduce stricter penalties and is in accordance with our policy of preventing and countering family violence, he said.

Addressing his cabinet's meeting, the premier said that the amending of the above-mentioned laws was conducted in cooperation with legal experts and associations engaged in the protection of women and children against violence.

"I thank everyone from the nongovernmental sector for their help in making the legislative proposal more precise and better," the premier said.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Release of 7 Young Men Accused of Rape Outrages Croatia

ZAGREB, October 14, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Monday expressed outrage at the case of several young men who gang-raped, harassed and blackmailed a 15-year-old girl in Zadar and called on relevant institutions and agencies as well as the general public to persist in the fight against all forms of violence.

"We must not shut our eyes to violence in our society, as this additionally insults the victims of violent acts," the president said on Twitter.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović also said that he didn't feel well when he read a news article about a decision of a Zadar Court investigating judge to release seven young men from custody who were charged with multiple rape. He, however, underscored that the police had promptly done its job and filed a report against the suspects.

The minister, however, declined to comment in detail on the case explaining that he was not fully informed about it and that he did not want to comment on the performance of other institutions.

The Social Democratic Party's (SDP) women's forum on Monday morning strongly deplored the recent decision of the court's investigating judge to release the seven suspects from detention pending trial. The court issued a restraining order whereby the suspects are forbidden from contacting the victim in the village where all of them live.

According to media reports, the seven young men – two of whom are 19-years-old, three are aged 18 and two are aged 17 – are charged with multiple rape of the victim and inflicting bodily injuries to her in the period from August 2018 to July 2019. The accused also made video recordings of some of the rapes with their mobile phones and blackmailed the victim with threats of posting recorded footage. One of the suspects is her ex-boyfriend who beat her on several occasions.

More judiciary news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

If Duhaček's Claims Are True, Violation of Judges' Ethics Has Occurred

ZAGREB, September 18, 2019 - The president of the Association of Croatian Judges, Damir Kontrec, said on Wednesday that if reporter Gordan Duhaček's claims that the trial judge had visited him in jail prior to his hearing, asking that he pleads guilty, proved true, it would constitute impermissible behaviour contrary to the Judges' Code of Ethics.

"If the reporter's claims prove to be true that the judge visited him in jail to say what he intended to do, that sort of conduct is inappropriate, impermissible and contrary to the Judges' Code of Ethics and harms the reputation of the judicial profession," said Kontrec.

"However, it is necessary to first determine the relevant facts in order to make such an assessment," Kontrec told Hina.

He believes that it is good "that the president of the relevant court has requested a detailed report" in order to determine all relevant facts about the case.

Kontrec did not wish to comment on Duhaček's case specifically, saying that it was underway and the Code of Ethics bans judges from commenting on ongoing cases.

Duhaček told the Index news website, for which he works, about the day he spent in jail after being arrested at Zagreb's airport. He claims that misdemeanour court judge Krešimir Ožanić visited him in jail ahead of his hearing, threatening to remand him in custody for 30 days if he did not plead guilty. The judge allegedly told him that he considered him guilty not only of writing an offensive message about the police but also of parodying a patriotic song, for which Duhaček still awaits a ruling.

More news about pressures on journalists in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Trial of Saucha, Zeljko for Travel Expense Scam Commences on Thursday

ZAGREB, September 11, 2019 - The trial of former prime minister's chief of staff Tomislav Saucha and his secretary Sandra Zeljko begins at Zagreb's County Court on Thursday, in a case dubbed "travel expenses" in which the USKOK anti-corruption office accuses them of falsifying travel requests and pocketing HRK 1 million in the process.

USKOK contends that Saucha, as former PM Zoran Milanović's chief of staff, falsified travel requests together with Zeljko, his then secretary, and that she continued to do so after Saucha no longer held that job.

An investigation was initially launched only into Saucha, who was an MP of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) at the time, and was later expanded to Zeljko, who was initially described as a key witness. The investigation became final in August 2017, when a Zagreb County Court panel of judges granted USKOK's appeal against an earlier decision whereby a judge ruled that expanding the investigation was unlawful.

USKOK's decision to expand the investigation was first quashed when Saucha's vote was crucial for Finance Minister Zdravko Marić's surviving a no-confidence vote in parliament, although he had signed a petition for the vote to be held.

He dismissed suspicions that somebody had "bought" him, claiming he changed his mind about the Marić vote of confidence to avoid a snap election.

More news about the controversial politician can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Fugitive Football Mogul Accuses Supreme Court President of "Corruption"

ZAGREB, July 23, 2019 - The former head of the Dinamo football club, Zdravko Mamić, on Tuesday lambasted the president of the Croatian Supreme Court, Đuro Sessa, accusing him of being "corrupt" and adding that he had proof.

The State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is scheduled to deliver its decision on Tuesday regarding Mamić's extradition to Croatia where he and several others have been charged with siphoning about 200 million kuna from Dinamo.

Mamić fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina and is currently residing in Međugorje. He has adamantly claimed that this is a politically rigged case and that Croatian judges are corrupt.

"I'll talk about names some other time and under different circumstances. I do not want to burden myself with additional criminal complaints, but I will certainly bring out the big guns when the time comes," Mamić told reporters ahead of the court hearing in Sarajevo.

However, he did mention Sessa's name. "One of those six judges is the corrupt president of the Supreme Court Đuro Sessa. I am telling him that he is an unfair, corrupt judge who... does not deserve to be the president of the Supreme Court," Mamić said.

"Both he and I know he is corrupt and naturally I will prove that without any problems when the conditions for that are created," Mamić added.

He added that he expects the Bosnian State Court will not extradite him to Croatia and that he bases his optimism on the prosecutor's stance. "I believe that there is absolutely no reason for my extradition and I am optimistic regarding this court procedure," he said.

He said the judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina functions without the influence of politics, unlike in Croatia.

Mamić's defence team too believes that the court will not decide to extradite him. The final decision regarding the extradition is up to the country's Justice Minister Josip Grubeša.

Croatia's Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjakovic called for Mamić's extradition in early June after Osijek County Court upheld a new indictment which Croatia's USKOK anti-corruption office filed against Mamić and six others for defrauding Dinamo of 200 million kuna, ordering that he be placed in custody.

Last spring, the Osijek Municipal Court sentenced Mamić in another case to 6.5 years in prison pending appeal for siphoning HRK 116 million from the football club.

The day before the verdict was delivered, he took refuge in Međugorje. He holds Croatian and Bosnian citizenship.

On Tuesday, Judge Sessa said that he was shocked by Mamić's claims.

"It's absurd to even comment on claims by a fugitive. Apart from being shocked, it is not clear to me what his motive are for saying something like that," Sessa told Hina.

More news about corruption in Croatia (alleged and real) can be found in the Politics section.

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