Thursday, 24. April 2014 - 01:04
02. 11. 11. - 14:00
First Croatian Minister of Internal Affairs Josip Boljkovac has been arrested on suspicion of having committed war crimes against civilians in 1945.
At the time, Boljkovac was head of the Karlovac branch of the former Yugoslav secret police, OZNA. He is said to have been responsible for deaths of civilians found buried in mass graves in Kozjaca and Duga Resa in central Croatia.
Vecernji List writes that investigations against Boljkovac, Josip Manolic and Rade Bulata have been going on for years, and although indictments had been raised in the past, no trial has taken place so far.
In his defence, Boljkovac said he was not responsible for the execution of Dubovac concentration camp inmates. As the head of Gorski Kotar police, Boljkovac said he would investigate and bring suspects to the Ministry of Interior, who would then proceed with trials.
Boljkovac said earlier this year that the accusations against him were current Minister of Interior Karamarko's personal revenge because Boljkovac refused to appoint him to a high position at the beginning of the 1990s.
Former Croatian President Stjepan Mesic had come to Boljkovac's defence back in August when it became clear he could be arrested.
Boljkovac, who is now 92, may be the first prominent figure to face prosecution for so-called "communist crimes" against fascist supporters committed in the aftermath of World War II.
Current Interior Minister Tomislav Karamarko has pledged to uncover and prosecute suspects believed to have been responsible for the execution of soldiers and civilians after the war had ended. Karamarko said there are as many as 672 mass graves in which close to 90,000 victims - Independent State of Croatia (NDH) soldiers, German and Italian soldiers and civilians - are buried.
Mesic has accused Karamarko however of starting a witch hunt in the hope of gaining right wing votes.
"The charges against Boljkovac are a sorry attempt to use political positions in order to settle accounts with people from the Yugoslav World War II resistance (Narodnooslobodilacka borba, NOB) who were fighting in Croatia's defence. All of this is done for the purpose of collecting cheap political points from the right in the upcoming parliamentary elections," Mesic said.
"If the rule of law functions properly, it is absolutely crazy to arrest Boljkovac. I hope that reason will prevail and that insitutions will not become Karamarko’s political farce," Mesic added. He said Boljkovac should be praised rather than arrested as he was forming the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) at the time when "those accusing him today hid in mice holes in fear of [Serbian leader Slobodan] Milosevic's hordes."
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