by Goran FLAUNDER
That decision gives slight gratification to the families of the victims, because the murderer is still at large, and the decision of the Constitutional Court regarding the appeal by Slobodan Budak, the attorney representing Jadranka Reihl-Kir, the widow of the murdered Osijek police chief, is still pending. If the Constitutional Court confirms the decision of the Supreme Court, Antun Gudelj will be tried again because due to the illegal application of the Clemency law his trial was never concluded. Recent constitutional amendments should allow for a retrial because the 1990 Constitution, adopted by the HDZ majority in the parliament, does not allow for a retrial once a trial is concluded. The earlier decision of the Supreme Court regarding Gudelj's acquittal was final.
Jadranka Reihl-Kir spent the last weekend at a SDP convention, where she was elected to the Chief Board of the party. We asked her to comment on the decision of the Supreme Court that annulled its own decision from 1997.
"The decision of the Supreme Court that annuls its own decision from three and a half years ago only demonstrates to what extent the Croatian judiciary was under the influence of Tudman's dirty politics. It is a tragedy that people who at the time illegally released a multiple murderer, insolently applying the Clemency law although at the time they kept emphasizing that that law did not apply to those who had 'bloodied their hands', and Anton Gudelj did exactly that, are still working in the highest judicial institutions of the country and are still untouchable, and they are not ethical enough to resign. If Franjo Tudman hadn't died and if a new government hadn't been elected, I doubt that we would have had such a decision at all."
NACIONAL: What can new authorities, in which you participate, do to bring back dignity to the judiciary and to bring honorable and professional judges back to the courts?
JADRANKA REIHL-KIR: The enactment of the law about the constitutional changes provides a possibility to replace the members of the State Judicial Council, which is a precondition for the replacement of judges who soiled the dignity of their profession. Just imagine, judges who in 1997 made the illegal decision in Anton Gudelj's case are still sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court and participated in the making of the most recent decision in the case. Therefore, they admitted that they had been wrong, and all of us know that they made that mistake deliberately, and... nothing. Already the following day they made new decisions that affect the lives of the citizens of this country as if nothing had happened in the meantime.
Besides the Supreme Court has seriously violated the principles of its work by allowing the judges whose decision was questioned to participate in the work of the Court. They had to be recused.
Do you think that the HDZ deliberately in the Constitution, that has recently been significantly modified, removed every possibility of retrial in the cases that have reached a final verdict, in order to protect its men by farcical verdicts?
I do not doubt that. That is obvious from the case of the murder of the Zagreb family Zec, in which people who confessed the crime and provided a detailed description of that crime could not be tried after they had been acquitted. Also, consider the trial of the suspects for the crimes in Pakracka Poljana, and some less well known cases in which suspects were after a short period spent in custody acquitted by final verdicts, although it was known that they were responsible for grave crimes.
How much do you trust the Croatian judiciary?
Not at all, having in mind my experiences form the trial of Antun Gudelj. A lot would have to change to make our judiciary again worthy of respect and trust.
Would you, in such a situation, advocate a new trial for Antun Gudelj in the unchanged circumstances in the Croatian judiciary?
I can not generalize the situation in the courts, because I am aware that many of the judges are true professionals. However, I would demand that in case of retrial the case be given to a different judge, instead of Ruzica Samota, who proposed that the application of the Clemency Law be considered in Gudelj's case. According to the way in which she conducted the trial, she does not deserve a second chance. I almost do not care which judge conducts the new trial, because it should not be difficult to hand down an honest verdict to someone who committed a triple murder.
According to some, the Clemency law was enacted above all to save war criminals among "our boys" from prison terms, while the courts tried to avoid applying the law to the people who fought on the Serb side whenever that was possible.
Many verdicts issued by Croatian court seem to confirm that assumption. However, although I could accept that assertion, I cannot with certainty claim that the HDZ authorities really enacted that law to provide amnesty to their people who during the war held responsible offices.
At the time Petar Kljajic, a former head of the County Court in Osijek and Osijek HDZ branch, publicly stated that Vladimir Seks and Branimir Glavas had pressured the Supreme Court to acquit Gudelj. Did that surprise you?
Kljajic probably knows what he is talking about, as in many affairs and incidents involving the HDZ he was at the very source of information. Also, I've never heard that they denied that. I was not surprised by that Kljajic's statement because my experience from a trial in the court headed by Kljajic at the time does not allow me to be surprised. However, it was surprising that Kljajic decided to speak out and thereby confirm something that the public suspected, that Antun Gudelj from the start had support of until recently two most influential politicians in Slavonia. It is undeniable that my husband made many enemies by working on the peaceful resolution of the conflict, while they sought an excuse to start a war. Petar Kljajic kept quiet for a long time and I doubt that he would have ever talked about that had his relations with Seks and Glavas not deteriorated at one point so dramatically.
You are still convinced that your husband was a victim of a political assassination?
Absolutely. I keep investigating and I know that Gudelj stated in front of witnesses that someone else would have carried out the assassination if he hadn't shot. That statement tells a lot. Besides, it is little known that two hours before the start of Josip's burial, the Osijek Police station received a call claiming that a bomb had been placed at the place where Josip was to be buried. That shows that indeed this was an organized murder and that Josip irritated some people so much with his advocacy of a peaceful solution of the conflict that he bothered them even dead, so that they wanted to interrupt his burial. Thus, we had to go to the burial under strong police escort. Several minutes later someone called to threaten that all Serb policemen would be shot, which caused real chaos in the station on July 3, 1991.
Recently Nikola Jaman, a retired colonel of the Croatian Army and still a refugee, publicly attacked you for allegedly cashing in the compensation for the death of your husband, while many other widows and mothers whose husbands and son died in the war hadn't done so.
I do not know where he got that information, because I haven't received a penny of compensation in the court. Besides I did not have the right to compensation because the HDZ had abolished the law regulating that type of compensation. I repeat, I haven't received any compensation for the death of my husband. However, Antun Gudelj did receive compensation. His acquittal states that all expenses of his trial are to be covered by the state, even the fees charged by the attorney who represented him. On the other hand, I had to cover my own expenses. But, I haven't raised the issue of compensation and my trial expenses. I only want that the truth about Josip's murder be found out and that the people responsible for it be punished.