by Drago HEDL
"Only on October 14 of this year, at the very end of the tenure of this administration, after unprecedented complications I was able to obtain the testimony if a key witness, currently kept in the District Attorney Prosecutor's Office in a city in Croatia. The testimony, briefly, states the following: ‘That morning, July 1, 1991, Branimir Glavas got out of a van wearing military fatigues. The van had stopped in front of a house in Tenja where a Croatian Guard unit had taken positions on both sides of the road. He shouted at them: ‘Stupid monkeys! Idiots! What are you doing? You want to kill each other?!' Then he ordered them to take positions on one side of the road and said: ‘There'll be a shootout here'. The person who stated this in front of an investigative magistrate had no doubt whatsoever that he saw Glavas at the checkpoint where my husband and two other men would be killed a few hours later," Jadranka Riehl-Kir says.
Mrs. Riehl-Kir is convinced that that testimony, which has now officially been filed with the Croatian judiciary, is the culmination of her struggle for the truth which started in the Spring of 2001, when she knocked on the door of minister [of internal affairs (Police)] Lucin with demands that criminal investigation of her husband murder and other murders that took place in Osijek in late 1991 be initiated. Lucin sent her to Ranko Ostojic, who received her request. She told Ostojic that nothing had changed within Osijek Police, nor in the District Attorney's Office, and told him that, if he really wanted to achieve something, he should send detectives from Zagreb.
After six months two detectives, Blaz Mamuza and Stellan Petric, were sent to Osijek.
"In the documents I handed over to Ostojic, besides details of my husband's murder I also handed over information about murders that took place in Osijek in 1991, especially about ‘Ratkovic case', about which you wrote in the last issue of Feral Tribune. I described everything, pointed out the house in which he had been tortured, identified its owner, some vehicles that participated in that and their number plates. On several occasions I provided new information to the authorities. I traveled by night to Osijek in order to talk to witnesses who were afraid to talk to the authorities but agreed to talk with me. De facto I did the work the detectives were supposed to do. I was present when the Police in Osijek questioned Mr. Ratkovic, the only surviving victim of executions in Osijek, as well as the person who saw Glavas at the spot where [my husband] was murdered later the very same morning," Jadranka Reihl-Kir says.
She was shocked when after all of that detective Mamuza told her: "Ms. Kir I doubt that you will succeed. Glavas is still too powerful in Osijek."
Jadranka Reihl-Kir says that the investigation was very unprofessional and sporadic. They would question one witness, then another one five days later, while in the meantime the rumors about questioning would spread through Osijek. They worked for months, but focused only on unimportant details, while avoiding important issues. "In the end, they accomplished nothing," says the former representative in the Parliament.
She claims that information about the investigation leaked everywhere. She was left aghast when Miroslav Jukic, former District State Attorney in Osijek, in the office of Marijan Ivic, Osijek Police Chief at the time, demanded from a local journalist addresses of Ratkovic and another key witness. "I was shocked that he had that information. Outraged, I contacted Lucin and asked how something like that could be happening. ‘Ah, Jadranka, information is leaking,' he said and shrugged his shoulders. After that the Police stopped the investigation," says the widow of the murdered Osijek Police Chief.
In two years the investigation did not make any progress. In the meantime Jadranka Reihl-Kir paid visits to Ranko Ostojic, then the state prosecutor Ortynski, who said that the case should be resolved but that the only way to do so was to move investigation away from Osijek. However, Ortynski was fired soon after that. The next state prosecutor Mladen Bajic, after studying results of the police investigation told her: ‘Mrs. Kir, they did nothing".
Jadranka Riehl-Kir continued the investigation on her own, hoping that, if the Constitutional Court where her complaint regarding the acquittal of Anton Gudelj by the Supreme Court on murder charges had languished for years, rejected her complaint she would collect new evidence and force a retrial. In the meantime the Constitutional Court decided in her favor.
"I was overjoyed. However, realizing that there was no political will to solve my husband's murder I became convinced that they hoped that I would be satisfied by the Constitutional Court's decision. Just consider that judge Vice Vukojevic voted for the decision and my husband had been convinced that Vukojevic had been scheming against him."
New impetus to her investigation came last year with an anonymous letter sent to the Parliament, which contained a photocopy of a part of the book written by Gordana Ajdukovic (representative in the Parliament in 1991, who currently lives in Belgrade [Serbia]). In the enclosed part of the book Gordana Ajdukovic describes negotiations conducted in Tenja on the day Riehl-Kir was murdered. She states that she had a hard time watching a man so much convinced that he was soon going to die, who desperately showed to everyone the issue of Glas Slavonije published that morning in which Glavas called on citizens to stop communicating with the Police and instead approach the People's Defense Secretariat, headed by Glavas. Desperate, Kir did not know what to do.
"'How can I work in such conditions, without coordination, without support, without a way to protect laws? Besides, they will kill me. They'll plant a bomb under my car or something like that. I am convinced that that will happen but I cannot go back'. I was dumbfounded and felt increasingly burdened by it all," Ajdukovic literally says in her book in the part in which she describes her conversations with Kir immediately before his death.
"I showed that photocopy to Mato Arlovic. He read it, but did not say anything," Jadranka Riehl-Kir says. After that I resigned my seat in the Parliament twice, and I also wanted to leave the Social Democrats after learning that the Police had not done anything. However, Arlovic tried to convince me not to do so using the argument that if I resign my seat in the Parliament as an ordinary citizen I would not have access to institutions, while if I stayed in the Parliament I would have an easier time finding the truth. He himself did not do anything to help me in my quest for the truth".
"In connection with the investigation of my husband's murder and war crimes committed in Osijek, I asked to be received by [then Prime Minister] Ivica Racan," the former representative in The Parliament continues. "He received me immediately although he was very busy. I complained that the Police was not doing anything, that information was being leaked, that Lucin wasn't doing anything to try to prevent leaks. Racan responded that he had been told that I had submitted a request to initiate an investigation, that Lucin had showed him the document, and that was all. I went to see Racan one more time this year and warned him that there was no political will to solve these murders. I complained that the key witness still hadn't been questioned by the investigative magistrate and demanded that that be done immediately. Racan's only commentary to all that was: ‘I'm amazed by your drive and desire to solve that case. The judiciary is the way it is. I am personally unhappy with the work of the judiciary and police'. He promised that he would talk to Lucin and Bajic and inform me personally - he emphasized that three times - about the outcome of those conversations. I am still waiting to hear from him".
Last summer Jadranka Riehl-Kir traveled to Belgrade to meet Dr. Gordana Ajdukovic at the Belgrade Surcin airport. Dr. Ajdukovic is currently the teaching dean of the Braca Karic University. In 1991 she was a representative in the Parliament and on fateful July 1, 1991 she traveled with Kir in the same car to negotiations in Tenja. From Gordana Ajdukovic she learned that she and Mato Arlovic went to set up negotiations in Tenja two days before the Osijek Police Chief had been murdered. Serbs from Tenja insisted that Reihl-Kir come to negotiations. However, besides Kir and Ajdukovic, Arlovic and Zlatko Kramaric were also supposed to show up at the negotiating table. Ajdukovic did not know why Arlovic and Kramaric did not show up that day. "She told me that they went to negotiations in two cars," Jadranka Riehl-Kir recalls the conversation. "Gordana Ajdukovic, my husband and Milan Knezevic were in the first car. Knezevic drove. Behind them, in an official car five Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) representatives had squeezed in one car, including Zobundzija. It is unusual that five persons ride in one car while in the other one there was space available. Someone told them to leave 15 minutes before the agreed time. Obviously, they arrived at the checkpoint too early, and when they entered the school where the negotiations were supposed to take place a phone rang and my husband was asked to urgently return to the building of the Agricultural College at the entrance to Osijek because of some incident. He asked Zobundzija, Knezevic and Tubic to go together and check what was going on. They got in Knezevic's car, passed the police checkpoint, saw that nothing was going on by the Agricultural College building and headed back for Tenja. Then, at the same checkpoint, Gudelj shot at the car. My conclusion is that they needed time to get ready. Consequently they ‘drove' my husband ‘around' until Gudelj was ready".
When around 7 p.m. the rest of the delegation returned to Osijek in an armored military transporter, a meeting was held. Kramaric and Glavas participated in the meeting. Kramaric banged his head against the wall and talked about Zobundzija only. No one talked about Kir. Ajdukovic asked Galvas how he was going to explain everything to the public, since he could not say that a Serb had killed Kir. Glavas responded with a question: ‘And how will you explain to the public that Gudelj's house had been set on fire?'".
"That was a lie," Jadranka Riehl-Kir says. "Gudelj's house hadn't been set on fire. I personally saw his house when I visited Tenja thanks to assistance of a Canadian gentleman, while it was still occupied. He took me to see Tubic, the only surviving passenger from the car in which Zobundzija and Knezevic were killed together with my husband, so that Tubic could give a statement to my lawyer about what had happened before they had been shot at. Then Tubic took me to Gudelj's house and I could personally see that it hadn't been damaged at all. ‘Krajina Electric Utility Company' offices were located in Gudelj's house."
After the conversation in Belgrade Jadranka Riehl-Kir was very hurt by the fact that Arlovic hadn't told her that two days before the murder of her husband he had personally been in Tenja to set up the details of the negotiations. He did not tell her anything about that when she told him in the Parliament that she was going to meet Gordana Ajdukovic in Belgrade. He only said: "She was not in the car in which your husband was killed". And then added: "I think your investigation will fail. I think it would be better for you and your child to write a book. That book would be a bestseller and could set your child up for life". I told him that I would definitely write a book, but that I had to find out its ending first.
She was disturbed by the fact that only after 12 years she found out that Arlovic and Gordana Ajdukovic had set up negotiations in Tenja two days before the murder of her husband, and that no one had found it appropriate to tell her about that detail.
In the meantime, Jadranka Reihl-Kir desperately tried to get the investigative magistrate to record the statement by a key witness. The path to Bajic was not as open as in the past. Nevertheless with assistance of some contacts she managed to reach him and get him to provide conditions so that the statement could be officially recorded. However, first she had to sign the official document stating that she had "approached uninvited" and that the statement had been recorded at her insistence. At first she was told that the statement cannot be given abroad, then that she had to bring the witness to Croatia, and finally, once the witness agreed to travel to Croatia, that the statement could only be recorded in a court office. Given perpetual changes of the conditions under which the statement could be given the witness changed his mind and gave up several times, but in the end did give his statement.
Now that the official statement exists, Jadranka Riehl-Kir has been told to wait for the enactment of the Application of the Statute of The International Criminal Tribunal and Prosecution of War Crimes and Violations of Wartime Acts Against International and Humanitarian Law Act, as before that her case cannot be solved. A strange explanation indeed.
"I am incredibly disappointed by the lack of political will to solve the murder of my husband," Jadranka Riehl-Kir says. "Soon, I'll explain why I am leaving the Social Democrats and leave the party. As a representative of Social Democrats who has spent four years in the Parliament, I realized that a person who wants justice and wants the rule of law cannot succeed given such politicians in power. I do not know if I will vote in the coming elections".
Despite the fact that he had killed Osijek Police Chief at the checkpoint at which another ten or so policemen were present Gudelj left the crime scene without any problems. For several days he hid in Osijek and then traveled over Slovenia and Austria to Australia, as besides the Croatian he also had an Australian passport.
Gudelj was tried in absentia. Ruzica Samota, judge of the Osijek County Court sentenced him to 20 years in prison. However, in 1995, a few months after the world wide broadcast of the BBC TV series "The death of Yugoslavia", significant part of which was dedicated to the murder of the Osijek Police Chief, Gudelj ended up in Germany, at the Frankfort airport, where he was arrested based on an Interpol arrest warrant and extradited to Croatia. In Croatia he was tried again in 1996. To the astonishment of the Croatian public, the same judge acquitted Gudelj, basing her decision on the General Amnesty Act. The Supreme Court of Croatia confirmed that verdict so that Gudelj returned to Australia where he lives today.
In the meantime the Constitutional Court, responding to a complaint submitted by Jadranka Riehl-Kir in early 2001 sent the verdict back to the Supreme Court, which annulled it and ordered a retrial. A new warrant has been issued for the arrest of Antun Gudelj, and his extradition has been requested from Australia.