June 26, 1995. Vreme News Digest Agency No 195

Croatia: Leader under investigation

The news of Veljko Dzakula's most recent arrest came as no surprise to those acquainted with his case, but it managed to spark a series of malicious comments about the Serbian and Croatian police in the sense that they have nothing better to do than go around arresting the leader of Serbs from Western Slavonija. In the last eighteen months, Veljko Dzakula was arrested five times, beaten up three times and kidnapped once, and was taken away on each occasion, in a brotherly fashion, by either the Serbian, Serb Krajina or Croatian police, or rather, members of the secret services of the above mentioned states.

This time, together with the former commander of the 51st brigade of the 18th corps of the Krajina Army (SVK) Stevan Harambasic, Dzakula was taken from Pakrac to Pozega.

"On Monday, 18. June, in the morning, a civilian escorted by a number of uniformed police officers entered the house where I live", Veljko Dzakula told us. " He said that he had a warrant from the district court in Pozega, to take me away, but failed to show it to me. They took both Stevo Harambasic and me. In the court in Pozega I met Petar Kanic who was appointed my legal representative, and who told me he knew what it was all about. The examining magistrate explained that in 1992 a wanted circular was issued in my name. I found myself amongst 38 people accused of crimes against civilian population. They said that an inquiry is under way, they read out the accusation, and told me my rights. The magistrate, the prosecutor and my lawyer were quite decent, I gave my statement and was released soon after. Stevo Harambasic was allowed to go at the same time so we returned to Pakrac the same day.

Veljko Dzakula stresses that he was treated well in Pozega, but at the same time he reminds that his arrest attracted the interest of international humanitarian organizations and several embassies in Croatia, especially the American, which even sent a representative to Pakrac to inquire about all the details. Nonetheless, the few remaining Serbs in Pakrac were upset by the arrests.

Dzakula claims that he still has not seen Tadeus Mazoviecki's report about the situation in Western Slavonija, about civilian casualties during operation "Flash" and human rights violations. 186 people are still being held, no information is available about the dead and wounded, no one knows where people were buried though simple wooden crosses with the inscription "N.N." placed over freshly dug burial mounds could provide a clue. Dzakula says that he intends to remain in Pakrac until all the prisoners are released, all the dead are buried in a civilized manner and until the Serbs who wish to remain in Western Slavonija are guarantied a dignified life.

Macedonia: Commercial stations won the war

The operation directed at "tidying up the media space" in Macedonia took an entirely different course after the article "Accounts in the sky", was published in Vreme (No. 241, 5. June 1995). The storm created by the unpopular measure enforced by the Ministry for Transport and Communication , Ministry of Employment and Social Policy and the Ministry of Culture, received an entirely unexpected epilogue following the interview which Juner Ismail, the Macedonian government spokesman and a minister without portfolio gave our magazine, and the reply given to the minister by the Macedonian Association of Commercial Radio and TV-stations.

The whole action was further complicated by the decision of the Tetovo local council (where Albanians are in majority, and most public offices are held by Albanians) to declare the decision of the three ministries about the "clean up and tidying of the media space" null and void. Government inspectors arriving in buildings where radio and TV stations are situated were greeted by demonstrators.

All this provoked a few angry debates in Parliament, where the Minister for Transport and Communications Dimitar Buzlevski met MP's and representatives of the Association of Commercial Radio and TV Stations.

" In such an electrified atmosphere Minister Buzlevski played a very positive role, managing to appease the emotions and at the same time initiate a more objective and pragmatic approach to the solution of the problem", Dragan Pavlovic Latas, the association coordinator and the proprietor of the commercial radio station "Radio VOX" told us. "Minister Buzlevski promised first of all that no more commercial stations would be closed until a new law on radio diffusion is introduced. This decision came into force immediately, which we consider Minister Buzlevski's personal merit. We have also been promised that the final draught of the new law will be laid down before parliament by the end of June, that there will be no first draught , and that the parliamentary procedure is likely to be curtailed. At the same time, a map of frequencies is supposed to be drawn, something that would make everybody's work easier".

Then, an auction would be organized in order to distribute the frequencies to all the bidding commercial radio and TV stations, including those first affected by the decision of the three ministries and closed. In order to stimulate new commercial stations, the law will at first require only basic technical conditions to be met, while later, some kind of natural selection is expected take place on the market.

Serbia: 'The Trifunovic Case'- for the fourth time

On the eve of 16th June, the newly established Yugoslav Army Day, amongst president Lilic's mail was a petition-letter signed by a group of 26 retired generals and admirals in which they demanded the abolition of a group of officers from the Varazdin corps sentenced at the end of last year to long term imprisonment for the crime of "undermining the military and defensive capability of the country".

Few months ago, President Lilic signed one such abolition document. By a secret abolition he put an end to the trial of General Bora Ivanovic, accused of many quite serious crimes including looting and fraud. Ivanovic was thus cleared and soon retired. He was later promoted, from retirement, into a major-general only to be sent into retirement again soon after the whole affair came out into the open. All these decisions required president Lilic's signature. The fact that the officers of the Varazdin corps remained in prison after the Yugoslav Army Day indicates that president Lilic has not signed anything this time, neither publicly or secretly, and shows that he is more willing to forgive obvious fraud than never proven "treason".

In the letter addressed to Zoran Lilic, which was signed by, amongst others three former heads of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) Chief of Staff, lieutenant-generals Zorko Canadi, Blagoje Adzic, and Zivota Panic, only the humanitarian aspect of the whole case was mentioned. "Without going into the issue of whether they are guilty or not, we believe that because of the deteriorating health of Vlada Trifunovic and Sreten Raduski, and that of Berislav Popov, their difficult, dramatic even tragic family situation, the serious difficulties in which their families found themselves (none of them have either a place to live or any other kind of property), also the fact that they have been in prison for a long time pending trial, especially Vlada Trifunovic, Sreten Raduski and Berislav Popov, their abolition on Yugoslav Army Day would be seen an act of humanity".

The verdict on the basis of which the officers of the Varazdin corps were given long prison sentences is full of weaknesses and is based on many fragile arguments. The most fragile are those in which Trifunovic and other officers were reproached for not sacrificing their own lives and those of their soldiers. The verdict also states that the equipment which had been surrendered to the "paramilitary formations resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children". The defence claimed that during the very same night that Trifunovic crossed retreated into Serbia, JNA air force could have destroyed the very same equipment (at the time, general Kadijevic called such a possibility "a heavy political decision"). At the same time, a long and impressive list of equipment which fell into the hands of Croatian armed units long before the surrender of the Varazdin corps was submitted before the court. However, subsequent death of "many innocent men, women and children ", has been associated only with the arms confiscated in Varazdin, and not those taken on other occasions during the war in Croatia.

It has been announced recently that general Trifunovic will seek at least some kind of satisfaction by suing one of the main witnesses at the trial, general Zivota Avramovic for false testimony. At the time of all the events in Varazdin, Avramovic was the commander of the Fifth military region and during the trial appeared as a witness for the prosecution. It is unclear from his statements during the testimony who ordered the bombing of the airport in Varazdin in September 1991, which resulted in a Croatian attack on the corps stationed in the town. On one occasion Avramovic claimed that it was Trifunovic who ordered the bombing, then that he himself ordered it, while in his book "How we brought down Yugoslavia", former member of the Presidency of SFR Yugoslavia Stipe Mesic wrote that the bombing had been ordered by general Kadijevic. The importance of knowing who ordered the bombing is further emphasised by the fact that the District court in Varazdin tried general Trifunovic in absence and sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment for war crimes. The trial was conducted on the premise that it was Trifunovic who ordered the bombing of the airport.