Misterious "assassination attempt" on Glavas in 1991: was the sixty-years-old assassin, "a chetnik [Serb] extremist from Palaca", murdered for the needs of Bozic's ST?
Tabloid to Life and Death
ST's story about an assassination attempt on Branimir Glavas would be only one of many "exciting reports" which were mass produced by the media at the time, if it did not have eerie traces of reasons which at the time could lead to a loss of life - Robert Pauletic, the author of the article in ST, admitted that he never saw the place where the alleged assassination attempt on Glavas took place, but that he got the photo of the murdered Petrovic from photographer Alojz Krivograd, who retold the event to him - At the time of the first war-time events in Croatia, Marinko Bozic, the owner of ST, screamed at his journalists demanding that they bring him, any way they can, a photograph of a dead chetnik. After the tip-off that Djordje Petrovic, "a Chetnik from Palaca", was walking through Osijek, that man was arrested, held in captivity for a while, severely beaten up and then murdered, only to be posthumously proclaimed for an assassin on Glavas
by Drago HEDL
Feral Tribune, Split, Croatia, May 27, 2000
In early September 1991, Slobodni Tjednik [free weekly] announced on its front page a sensational topic: "An assassination attempt on Glavas prevented!" The article included a big photograph of the killed "chetnik extremist from Palaca" who, "under the cover of darkness, armed with a machine gun and, it seems, totally on his own, arrived on a suicidal mission in the best guarded barracks in the center of the city and even managed to fool the first lines of sentry, getting in the end as close as about thirty meters to his undeniable target - Branimir Glavas". Slobodni Tjednik's article is full of drama and eyewitness description and the journalist, Robert Pauletic, who reported from the spot and wrote the whole story in the first person.
Describing an exciting nighttime action that took place next to Glavas' command point, followed by panicky shouts "stop! stop!" and bursts of fire that tore through hitherto quiet Saturday night in Osijek, Pauletic portrays the finale of the dramatic event: "I knew that the danger was over when the light in the hallway turned on. Carefully, I went towards the exit from the barracks, through the still dark courtyard, to inquire what had happened. On the way toward the sentry point, I saw three Guard soldiers in the dark next to a tree. Trying to get by them I tripped over something and fell. I heard the laughter and a comment: 'Look, a journalist fell over a chetnik!' I took a better look and saw an outline of a corpse. I touched the hand I used to slow down my fall and felt something sticky. Blood!" However, the photograph of the killed "chetnik extremist from Palaca" published next to Pauletic's article does not at all correspond to the description of a terrorist who is in darkness trying to sneak in to "the best guarded barracks in the center of the city" and Glavas' command post; a terrorist who jumped over the high fence, fooled the first sentry lines and got close to his target. The black-and-white ST photograph shows a massacred middle-aged man with a big "beer belly", in a white short-sleeved shirt - a highly atypical "terrorist" for whom it is hard to believe that he was "prepared to do everything ordered by his chetnik commanders", as the ST journalist wrote.
The mentioned ST's story would be only one of numerous "exciting reports" which were mass produced by the media at the time if it did not have eerie traces of the reasons which at the murky and dangerous time could lead to a loss of life. The dramatic testimony of Vjenceslav Bill, a member of the Osijek company of the National Guard, who according to his own testimony published in one of the past issues of Feral Tribune had special tasks of "a free-lance shooter" opened the topic of numerous mysterious and never explained murders in Osijek, among whom should be classified the one of Djordje Petrovic, "a chetnik extremist from Palaca" and the alleged assassin on Galvas, as claimed by the ST. Early this year, Petar Kljajic, until recently the president of the County Court in Osijek, pointed out the murder of Djordje Petrovic in his interview with Feral. At that time, Kjlajic was in a fierce conflict with Branimir Glavas, the Osijek-Baranja county governor, and as a consequence of a merciless conflict between the two former collaborators, especially during the war and the time immediately before the war, the public found about a huge pile of dirty laundry which they knew about each other. In his interview with Feral Kljajic spoke at the time about "a fake attack on Glavas" and literally, in the tape recorder, said the following: "that man (Petrovic) was beaten up and, under his (Glavas) orders someone else had to carry out that act. Can a clear mind believe that someone from Cepin, a certain Petrovic, would come to the courtyard of the County Building in order to kill Glavas? The Police never investigated that case. Jezercic (former Police Chief in Osijek, now in custody, auth. rem.) did not want to investigate that murder, how Petrovic died and who killed him, because a link with Glavas would have been revealed in an investigation. The truth will come out and the public will find out who beat up that Serb Petrovic and who ordered that he be executed."
After a series of serious accusations exchanged by Glavas and Kljajic at the time, this one was the most serious. However, soon afterwards we witnessed a spectacular reconciliation in the Governor's office. A weekly newspaper wrote that the two were brought together above all by Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal. Following in the footsteps of Kljajic's story, Feral's journalist carefully went through the newspapers from that time and indeed, in Slobodni Tjednik from September 5 1991 he found the article quoted at the beginning of this text, about what Kljajic referred to as "a fake attack of Glavas" and ST described as an assassination attempt. Unlike Kljajic, who talked about Serb Petrovic from Cepin, ST mentions Djordje Petrovic from the Serb village of Palaca, near Osijek.
Yearning for Dead Chetnik
Feral's investigation about that case revealed a shocking information immediately, at its first step. Robert Pauletic, the author of the ST's article about the assassination attempt on Glavas, admitted in a conversations with Feral's journalists that he never saw the spot where the alleged assassination attempt on Glavas had taken place! He said that he had received the photograph of the murdered Petrovic from Alojz Krivograd, also known as Futy, who at the time worked for the agency SIGMA. Pauletic added that at the time of the event he wrote about, Krivograd was based near the Osijek training ground C, one of the Yugoslav People's Army strongholds, which was used for attacks on Osijek. Pauletic claimed that Krivograd had told him the whole story about "the assassination attempt" and that his article in ST was based only on that testimony. "That's how we worked then," said Pauletic, today an editor of entertainment magazines, and added that he wasn't even sure whether Krivograd had actually taken the photo of dead Petrovic himself or had gotten it from someone else. At the time the photo reporters sold and exchanged photographs among themselves so that it is possible that Krivograd, who died somewhere in western Hercegovina in 1992, had received that photograph from someone.
However, another former journalist of Slobodni Tjednik has told recently to this Feral's journalist that at the time of first war-time events in Croatia, Marinko Bozic, the owner of ST, screamed at the journalists to get him a photograph of a dead chetnik, any way they can.
Josip Klemen was at the time the editor-in-chief of the Osijek daily Glas Slavonije. Previously, Klemen had been a journalist of ST. The connection between Bozic and Klemen continued to function, so that ST frequently carried "exclusives" from Slavonija that other newspapaers could not get. One of such "exclusives" was the above mentioned "assassination attempt" on Glavas. According to the information uncovered by Feral, the story approximately went as follows. Kelemen, who is originally from Laslovo, a village with numerous ethnic Hungarian population, which is separated by the railroad tracks from the Serb village of Palaca, allegedly tipped someone off that Djordje Petrovic, "a chetnik from Palaca" was walking through Osijek. That Petrovic was then arrested, kept in captivity for a while, allegedly in the barracks next to the main market in Osijek, then severely beaten and finally murdered. The article in ST also claims that Glas Slavonije frequently provided "warnings on chetniks who roam unchecked through Osijek": "It is especially worrisome that Kelemen's Glas Slavonije on several occasions warned that chetnik extremists from Palaca were walking unchecked through the streets of Osijek, prepared to do anything ordered by their chetnik commanders," wrote Pauletic in the mentioned article.
In his interview with Feral Kljajic also claimed that Petrovic had been severely beaten before his execution. The investigative magistrate was shocked during the investigation on the spot, after seeing the corpse of the alleged assassin. He claimed that, besides numerous bruises, his body was burned by some sort of acid, probably from a car battery, which testifies what sort of treatement Petrovic had in captivity. The investigative magistrate was at the time advised to forget what he had seen and the case of the "chetnik extremist from Palaca" was never processed, so that it was forgotten, until it was mentioned by Petar Kljajic in his interview to Feral.
The amount of excitement that was provoked by Kljajic's mention of Petrovic's murder can be gauged from the conversation this journalist had with Josip Peci, at the time already dismissed chief of the SZUP [one of Croatian intelligence services] in Osijek on March 9, 2000. Peci initiated that conversation with a long monologue in which he said that soon after Kljajic's interview to Feral he was summoned by Osijek-Baranja governor Glavas who showed him a letter from Miron Mioc, a former mayor of Cepin. In the letter to Glavas, Mioc relates how, after the publication of Kljajic's interview to Feral he was visited by four policemen who demanded from him to tell them everything he knew about the murder of Djordje Petrovic, mentioned by Kljajic in the interview. Mioc wrote that he was scared by the visit of the police inspectors, who quickly flashed some badges at him. He claimed that he suspected that one of the inspectors was a foreigner, because he did not say a word during the questioning. Peci explained that then, following Glavas' orders, he sent to Mioc two of his best inspectors in order to find out what was going on, but they came back convinced that Mioc had fabricated the whole story!
Searching for the details of the story about Petrovic, Feral's reporters headed for Palaca, a village near Osijek, which between July 1991 and the final peaceful integration on January 15 1998, was outside control of the Croatian authorities. There are only two Petrovic brothers in the village. They are the locals and know all the other inhabitants of that small village. They haven't heard of any Djordje Petrovic and are completely convinced that no one under that name has ever lived in Palaca. To the question whether they knew if some of the inhabitants of the village were killed in Osijek early in the war, they mentioned Cedomir Vuckovic and directed us to his neighbors. One of the neighbors, an elderly man who introduced himself as Vaso, recognized Vuckovic on the photograph from Slobodni Tjednik. "I am absolutely sure that that is him. We worked for a long time together as forest wardens. He was my boss," he said convinced that the alleged Djordje Petrovic from the photograph in ST was actually Cedomir Vuckovic. Later it turned out that other data obtained in Palaca were also correct. Vuckovic was born in 1931, lived in Osijek in the then 100 Bakulic St. (today Hebrang St.), and at the time when he decided to attempt an "assassination" on Glavas he was aged 60 and had been retired for a while. After the murder, he was buried in Osijek, at the Retfalacko cemetery. His wife, with a son and a daughter, immediately after the event left Osijek and moved to Belgrade. She finally ended up in Great Britain. In Palaca, Vuckovic owned an unfinished house that he visited frequently before the war. On several occasions, once Palaca was already cut off by the barricades, he came to the neighboring Laslovo, unsuccessfully trying to reach his house.
Confusion About Name
In Osijek, one of Vuckovic's neighbors from Hebrang St. immediately recognized Vuckovic from the photograph published in ST. To the question whether Vuckovic was a Serb extremist he responded that he was a quiet man and a good neighbor. He helped our interlocutor a lot when he was building a house, by getting wood beams and other wooden building material for him. Feral's interlocutor has heard from Vuckovic's wife that on the day he was arrested he had gone to the market and after that, until the day he was murdered, he disappeared.
Feral could not investigate two important details from this story: why does the ST refer in its article to Cedomir Vuckovic as Djordje Petrovic from Palaca, a person that had never lived in that village? Did someone tried to hide the tracks by consciously publishing a wrong name? Were, perhaps at that time two men murdered, and someone mixed up their photographs and names? Another unclear thing about this murder is how come Vuckovic's body, if he was murdered near the barracks (at that time already controlled by the National Guard) next to the main market, ended up near Glavas' command post, as much as a kilometer or two further, about which ST wrote? There is a version that the body was transferred there so that the ST photographer could take a photo, which would agree with Kljajic's claims about a "fake assassination attempt". Witnesses of that murder do exist and one of them is the investigative magistrate who conducted the investigation on the spot.
During the war and immediately before the war, a series of unexplained murders took place in Osijek. The first murder, as far as is known, took place on Cepinska Road, as soon as the HDZ organized nighttime sentries that patrolled the city. At the time, a driver of a truck from Bosnia accidentally hit one of the members of a HDZ patrol. The others caught up with the driver and killed him. No one has ever been charged with that murder.
Corpses From Drava
In late 1991, all together nine corpses were pulled out of the Drava River. All of them had a bullet wound on the back of the head and arms tied behind the back. Among them were the corpses of a physician from the Osijek hospital, Kutlic, and Simo Pocuc, a chess master from Osijek, who was probably killed by mistake because someone mistook him for his better known brother. The murderers were never discovered. There were also several murders of Serb civilians in Cepin; the Police caught the murderers who even confessed the murders, but were later released from the investigative prison and never tried. Swiss journalist Christian Wuttenberg, and then British photo reporter Paul Jenks, who had come to investigate the death of his Swiss colleague, died in unclear circumstances in Brijest, at the very entrance to Osijek, where the International Brigade made up from foreigners who fought on the Croatian side had its headquarters. Already mentioned Vjenceslav Bill recently in Feral told his story about the organization of units that were formed under the auspices of the National Guard at the time. He said a lot about another never explained murder, the one of Mate Sabic. What else should take place to prompt the state prosecutor to show interest for all those murders and summon those who know a lot about them to testify? The case of Cedomir Vuckovic, the person who apparently was murdered for the needs of an aggressive weekly, could be an interesting beginning of the uncovering of Osijek dark stories. Of course, if someone does not believe that as well to be an attempt to criminalize the Homeland War.
Translated on September 14, 2000