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Two Years Later, Svetozar Karan Still In Jail

by G. GR.

Novi List, Rijeka, Croatia, April 5, 2005

Yesterday, the Constitutional Court confirmed the decision of the Supreme Court about extension of custody for Svetozar Karan from Korenica, charged with war crimes. The decision of the Constitutional Court reminded the public that the retrial in the case against Svetozar Karan still hasn't been completed, after in January of 2004 the Supreme Court annulled the verdict of the Gospic District Court, among other because of the unprecedented justification of the verdict. The Constitutional Court confirmed that the decision of the Supreme Court to keep Karan in custody, he has been in prison for more than two years now, is lawful as the charges against Svetozar Karan are punishable by prison term longer than eight years. The infamous verdict by Branko Milanovic, judge from Gospic, stated that: "ancestors of the defendant came to this region together with the Ottoman Turks 500 years ago, when together with Turks they came and destroyed Croats, and since they annexed this region to Yugoslavia they de facto destroyed Croats in some parts, now they want to take everything that was at one point occupied by the Ottomans, and together with the Ottomans to the point that was reached by the defendant and his ancestors [sic]".

Commemoration of the fourteenth anniversary of the first victim of the Homeland War

Josip Jovic Believed in Justice

"While on that day many celebrated Easter and the victory of life over death, Jovic sacrificed his life in the defense of the homeland," Damir Milinovic, deputy president of the Parliament said


Novi List, Rijeka, Croatia, April 3, 2005

The commemoration at the spot where fourteen years ago Josip Jovic, the first victim of the Homeland War, was killed, brought together the highest representatives of the Croatian authorities, numerous associations of veterans of the Homeland War, representatives of the local authorities as well as hundreds of Croatian volunteers from all over Croatia. Marija Jovic, Josip Jovic's mother, and members of this family laid a wreath on the monument to Jovic. Then, various delegations also laid wreaths on the monument. On behalf of the president of Croatia wreath was laid by General Josip Lucic and deputy president of the Croatian Parliament Dr. Darko Milinovic. As a sponsor of this commemoration, deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor then approached the monument.

"Just like Josip, many sons of Croatia left to fight in the war almost unarmed, without true uniforms, only ‘armed' by rosary beads, something that our enemy lacked, and the faith that they were fighting for a just cause, for freedom of Croatia," Milinovic said.

"I thank above you, Mother Marija, for giving birth to your son and raising your son to love his Croatia and its entire people," Kosor said. "At this spot, one of the most beautiful in the world, every year we commemorate the Bloody Easter of 1991. That Easter remains in the collective memory of all Croats and all citizens of Croatia as a day when Josip Jovic was murdered by terrorists. That day portended many bloody events," Kosor said.

The prayer was led by Military Bishop Monsignor Juraj Jezerinac. Bishop Jezerinac asked that all prayers be dedicated to the Croat victims of the Homeland War, as well as to the Holy Father who was at that moment fighting for life. In speeches of representatives of several associations of Veterans of the Homeland War, emphasis was on unquestioning support to the Government, which despite numerous obstacles is working hard on trying to improve the quality of life of citizens of Croatia, and preserving the dignity of the Homeland War and Croat defenders.

Why did Branko Erceg, known as Ban, owner of the Otok cafe with a striking name, "Ante", put up plaques with the text "To all Ustashe - Otok"?

Ustashe Robinson's Island

It is encouraging that, based on reactions of numerous anonymous residents of Otok, Ban put up the plaque on their behalf, but without seeking their approval. The only Otok [island] in Croatia with positive natural population growth rate, it seems, had better things to do than to worry about the exhibitionism of its Ustashe "Robinson"

by Zoran KRZELJ

Novi List, Rijeka, Croatia, September 25, 2004

Otok, the birthplace of Mirko Norac, Croatian Army General found guilty of war crimes, last week got a new "hero", as reported by all the Croatian media. No doubt, the media abroad will soon follow the suit... And everything started with an article published in our newspaper, urging Prime Minister Sanader to continue the forceful action of removal of fascist monuments by getting rid of the plaque commemorating "Ustashe fallen for the NDH [stands for the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi ally in WWII ruled by a pro-fascist movement, Ustashe]", placed in 1993 on Alkarski Dvori in Sinj. During her recent visit to Sinj, deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor urged residents of Sinj to remove the plaque, and even the hardline president of the Alka Association of Knights (VAD) and mayor of Sinj Mate Jukic entered the fray begging Sinj Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) [far right political party] to take down the plaque they placed eleven years ago during their celebration of the "NDH day".

Plaque Ended Up At "Ante's"

Branko Erceg, also known as Ban, owner of the Otok cafe "Ante" (you can guess Ante's last name! [Pavelic, Ustashe leader]) admitted that he is the one who placed plaques on the lawn in front of the city hall in Otok, with the inscription "to all Ustashe - residents of Otok", protesting the decision of the authorities to remove the plaque in Sinj.

Obviously well prepared for commemorative activities Ban had at least two identical plaques made. He placed the first one on Sunday morning. After the first plaque was removed by police, he pulled out the second one, placed it on the same spot and added the sign "stay out - mines!" Members of the anti-terrorist unit checked the plaque and the area around it and ascertained that the area had not been mined. However, they did not remove the second plaque.

On Monday, the plaque was removed by Erceg himself. Erceg moved the plaque some fifty meters from its initial spot, to his café. Half way to the café, he had to "argue" with his friend Zvonimir Sipic, a combine mechanic, who wanted to mount the plaque on his workshop in Trilj!

Grandfather And Uncles On Plaque

"I joined the Homeland War when I was 20. I begged Ban to give me the plaque! I would put it on my workshop! Who is going to take it down after I inscribe the names of my grandfather and four uncles on it!? Very recently I blocked the bridge in Trilj five times. If I decide to block it again, you'll have something to write about," Sipic shouted in front of the journalists early this week, snatching a piece of Ban's sudden "fame" for himself.

In café "Ante", where the centerpiece is a large framed photo of Mirko Norac, next to Pope John Paul II, Erceg "explained" to journalists his motivation, both for putting up and removing the plaque, while one of the waitresses distributed to the journalists free black lighters with Ustashe insignia.

"They took down a monument to Budak! Why don't they destroy partisan monuments? In Kumrovec, there is a statue of Tito, six meters [18 feet] high, and Partisans committed as many crimes as Ustashe did!? Why should not I, then, put up a plaque commemorating my grandfathers? If they get rid of Partisan monuments, we won't put up any more plaques," says restaurateur Ban, offering arguments recently also presented by some highly educated Croats.

If She Spoke Croatian, She Would Say "skale"

Branko Erceg was especially incensed by Simun Anusic, grandson of Partisan national hero from Cetinska Krajina Tadija Anusic. Simun Anusic also participated in the Homeland War, fighting with "Tigers". He stated for Slobodna Dalmacija that he would personally come and take down the plaque commemorating Ustashe from Alkarski Dvor in Sinj.

"He'll take it down? Well, if he could speak Croatian, he would have said ‘skale' instead of ‘ljestve'!," Ban was angry with the hero of the Homeland War and a grandson of a Partisan hero.

"Wait a minute, ‘skale' is not a Croatian word, it comes from Italian," yours truly tried to enlighten Ban.

"Well, whose word is ‘ljestve', then?" the owner of café "Ante" wanted to know.

"It's a Croatian word. Maybe you got confused with ‘merdevine' [a "Serb" word for ladder]?"

"Maybe, but, let Anusic come, he does not need a ladder for this plaque," Branko Erceg also known as Ban raged, after personally, following the advice from the Police and the mayor of Otok, removing his plaque.

Apart from superior "knowledge" of the Croatian language, Ban also boasted with "exceptional grasp" of history. As far as he is concerned, Ustashe were defenders of the people, while Partisans were criminals. Crimes of the SS division Prinz Eugen, the so-called "devil's division", which between March 28 and 29, 1944 in seven villages in the eastern part of Cetinska Krajina slaughtered about 1800 inhabitants, mostly children, women and elderly, by burning them alive, as confirmed by one of the survivors, Jozo Akrap Majski, who recently published a book on this topic, were according to Ban committed by Serb Chetniks wearing German uniforms, while according to Ban Partisans calmly watched the whole spectacle!?

"U" - Prettiest Of All Letters

"Ustashe crimes are exaggerated. Partisans were much worse. Ustashe did not go to Nis [Serbia] to murder, and Serb Chetniks killed along the Adriatic coast," restaurateur Ban says.

To our question whether partisans killed one of his relatives, providing motivation to put up the plaque, he answered:

"Yes, they did, they killed my cousin in 1947!"

Ban also does not understand criticism of Thompson.

"He is criticized for singing the song ‘Jasenovac and Gradiska Stara' [Ustashe concentration camps] and I know that song since I was a child. They criticize Thompson, but he did not write the lyrics for the song. He only sang it, as I would also do," Ban proudly exclaims, adding that "'U' is the prettiest of all letters".

How can one explain to the café bar owner who does not know that "ljestve" is a Croat, while "skale" is an Italian word that [Ante] Pavelic gave Dalmatia to Mussolini, and that Partisans liberated it from the Italian fascists?

What about the "heroic" removal of the plaque? According to Erceg it went like this:

"This morning I talked with the police chief in Sinj, who told me that it would be best for everyone if I removed the plaque myself, so that the police did not have to intervene. I did precisely that. The mayor has nothing to do with that. He did not even know that I was going to put the plaque up"

Branko Samardzic, mayor of Otok, says that the decision that the plaque be removed was made at the urgently called meeting of the town council.

"We ordered the gentlemen who put up the plaque to remove it, and they did as requested," Samardzic says. The town council issued the following press release:

Cryptic Press Release

"Precisely at the time when we are making efforts to finish all open projects and present them to the population before the town day, we are facing behaviors that do not contribute to that goal. Namely, conflicts between the leftist and rightist extremists that can be witnessed daily in our society have also affected our small town, which only wants to be left alone to live and work in peace. Consequently the Otok town council urges the citizens to resist both the provocateurs who have occupied our media and daily glorify the greatest evil that has ever visited this area, as well as others who in return glorify the other evil, but to join all of us who want to turn towards the future and work for the benefit of our people as the only goal [sic]."

The cryptic press release of the mayor, whose office is adorned by a photograph of Norac and the Pope even bigger than the one displayed in the cafe "Ante" begs for an interpretation!

However, it is encouraging that, based on reactions of numerous anonymous residents of Otok, Ban put up the plaque on their behalf, but without seeking their approval. The only Otok [island] in Croatia with positive natural population growth rate, it seems, had better things to do than to worry about the exhibitionism of its Ustashe "Robinson".

Gospic district court acquits defendant from Siroka Kula

Dane Serdar Acquitted Of War Crimes Charges

Charged with murder of eight residents of Suroka Kula near Gospic, and then acquitted, 60-years-old Dane Serdar was released from custody after 11 months


Novi List, Rijeka, Croatia, September 24, 2004

After a retrial, the district court in Gospic acquitted Dane Serdar of war crimes charges for murder of eight inhabitants of Siroka Luka near Gospic. In 1994 Serdar was tried in absentia, found guilty of the same charges and sentenced to 15 years in prison. After the acquittal 60-years-old Srdar was released from custody after 11 months. The acquittal came from the judicial bench presided by judge Dusan Sporcic.

According to one of Srdar's lawyers, Luka Susak, in the retrial none of 12 witnesses could confirm that Serdar was involved in maltreatment and murder of eight civilians in Siroka Kula in 1991, when the village was occupied by the Serb paramilitary forces. In 1994, the court in Gospic tried Serdar in absentia, while the Supreme Court confirmed the first degree sentence the same year. In October 2003, Serdar returned to Croatia from Serbia and, even though he had requested a retrial, was immediately sent to serve the sentence. Four months later the court in Gospic decided to retry the case, after being warned by Serdar's lawyers and after an intercession by Ivica Crnic, judge on the Supreme Court. Because of Serdar's case, the State Judicial Council fined Pavle Rukavina, president of the court in Gospic, even though Crnic demanded the harshest possible punishment, dismissal.

By the way, the decision to retry Serdar's case was made on the day when a delegation of the Supreme Court inspected the district court in Gospic, although Rukavina claimed in front of the State Judicial Council that the two events were not related.

Translated on February 22, 2006

Novi List