Garaplija Case Again in Court
These days the Human Rights Court, whose members are judges from abroad and Bosnia-Hercegovina, ordered a retrial in the case of Edin Garaplija, a former AID official, because, according to the judges, Garaplija was not given a fair trial. Based on the facts ignored by the Federation BH Supreme Court, the Human Rights Court unanimously decided to order the Federation to accept Garaplija's appeal of the verdict that sentenced him to 13 years in prison
Izetbegovic Condemned Slobodna Bosna's Journalists As Prostitutes Because of Our Reporting About "Garaplija Case"!!!
For months the debate between Slobodna Bosna and people who felt put on the spot by our writing about the Garaplija case went on on the pages of our magazine. And while other media cowardly kept quiet, waiting for the denouement of the case, in Slobodna Bosna the following was said about the case - Bakir Izetbegovic: "Bunch of nonsense and lies"; Kemal Ademovic: "I respect law"; Alija Izetbegovic: "There are journalists and journalists prostitutes"; Hajrudin Suman: "Human evil and malice knows no boundaries"; Ivo Komsic: "It is difficult to understand pathological attempts to discredit the institution of the Presidency"; Ljljan: "morbid fabrications of Slobodna Bosna"
by Medina DELALIC
Slobodna Bosna, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, July 13, 2000
Can a man who based on an official warrant arrests and interrogates a suspect be found guilty of abduction in court? What is an appropriate punishment for an attempted murder of an infamous murderer? Where is justice if the very same murderer freely walks through the city, while the interrogator is sentenced to 13 years in prison? Such questions are posed when an abduction is not only an abduction, and a murder is more than a murder. When an incident becomes a scandal, as is the case with Edin Garaplija, who has worked for the Bosnian state security service since 1992, and later for the Agency for Documentation and Research (AID). Garaplija was recruited by Mustafa Hafizovic, a high SDA official. He was quickly promoted and became the chief of the anti-terrorist department.
Alispahic's Theft of AID Documentation
The secrecy of work and hierarchy in the service was of such nature that only the director of AID, Kemal Ademovic, could issue orders. The anti-terrorist department had the task to track down a group of Serb agents working for the Serb Counter Intelligence Service (KOS), which had been infiltrated in the state institutions of Bosnia-Hercegovina and the AID. One of the tasks were the so-called "offensive actions" towards Croat politicians in BH, above all Kresimir Zubak, which implied that he was under surveillance and that his phone was tapped. Garaplija was subordinated to Ademovic and could only get orders from him. He only once ignored the orders from the director, when the US Administration gave BH ultimatum to replace the former Police Minister and first director of the AID, Bakir Alispahic. Then Hafizovic ordered Garaplija to "cover" with his team the Police headquarters and watch Alispahic. This group watched Alsipahic for three days and two nights, while he removed documentation and files from the Police headquarters and moved them to his apartment in the Ciglane district. Hafizovic did not react when he was informed that Alispahic had been removing documentation. On the contrary, he allowed him to finish the job. Garaplija probably then became suspicious that the service was not functioning as a single organization, but that its factions were under influence of various local and foreign political centers.
In early 1996 Ademovic gave initial data about the organization named "Seve" to Garaplija and his group. "Seve" were founded by the Police at the time when Alija Delimustafic was the Police Minister. Their initial training was conducted in the camp of the Croat intelligence service SIS in Metkovic. Later training of "Seve" was conducted in the camp "Pogorelica" near Fojnica. The group had between 15 and 20 members, and only three to four members of the group were informed about and participated in any individual operation. All the members were never informed about any particular operation. According to the information at Ademovic's disposal, besides Alispahic, "Seve" were subordinated to Enver Mujezinovic, Nedzad Ugljen, Irfan Ljevakovic, Fikret Muslimovic, and Jusuf Jasarevic. Ademovic informed Garaplija that in May 1992 "Seve" executed 12 persons in front of the Militia Hall in Sarajevo. He also informed him that members of this group took money out of BH. This money was stolen from the donations sent to Bosnia-Hercegovina and was deposited in banks in Cyprus and Austria. In this they were assisted by Hajrudin Suman, a former director of the Postal Service of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Further information indicated that based on state leadership orders "Seve" purchased narcotics abroad in order to deal them in BH. Ademovic had acquired the list of "Seve" members through Nedzad Ugljen, and showed it to Garaplija. He expressed doubt in Ugljen, explaining that Nedzad Herenda was not on the list, even though, according to Ademovic, he was one of the "most dangerous members of the group". Considering that Ugljen omitted Herenda from the list of the members of the group, his status is additionally mysterious. Namely, Herenda was recruited in the reserve forces of the State Security Service of the Police although as a several times sentenced criminal according to the rules of the service (moral quality) he could not be recruited even as an informer. Garaplija was also informed about certain Kulovic, an engineer, who designed a syringe with a coil. It is not certain whether Kulovic knew that these syringes were used to inject poison, as murder weapons. Forensic scientist Ilijas Dobraca was also mentioned as an accomplice of "Seve". His task was to fake results of autopsies as a court expert and portray murders and natural deaths. Finally, on June 10, 1996, director of AID Ademovic issued secret orders initiating the operation "Orao" [Eagle]. The operation consisted of two phases. In the first phase Herenda was to be placed under surveillance, while in the second phase he was to be arrested and kept for "further questioning". The brief for the operation "Orao" states that Herenda is suspected of committing grave terrorist acts.
Questioning: Operation "Eagle"
On June 25, 1996, Garaplija and Haris Pezo stopped Nedzad Herenda in the street and by force took him to a house where they forced him to give them his personal effects. They kept and questioned Herenda until June 29. During that time Garaplija met Ademovic daily in the big park, across the road from the department store, or in the partisan chapel at the Bare cemetery, where he informed Ademovic about the information provided by Herenda. If is assumed that Ademovic passed the information on to his superiors. Because of fear of obstruction from within, meetings were secret. "Herenda admitted many things during the questioning," Garaplija said. "We used the initial information about Herenda's activities and lied to him that we were getting information from Dragan Bozic, whom we had supposedly arrested. Herenda confessed everything. In his statements he fully confirmed our suspicions and extended them by horrifying and shocking admissions. The most shocking Herenda's confession was regarding an assassination attempt on the then Chief of Staff of the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina, General Halilovic, in which his wife and her brother died. This assassination attempt was carried out based on the orders from Bakir Alispahic and Nedzad Ugljen." There are indications that during the interrogation, which was recorded on video and tape, Herenda was tortured. Two bullets were fired into his knees, and another two into his head. Wrapped in a blanket he was thrown out of a car outside Sarajevo. In the meantime, Muamera Herenda, who did not know the whereabouts of her husband, tried to get an answer from Nedzad Ugljen. Ugljen advised her not to report his disappearance. The Police found Herenda on June 29, 1996, on the regional road Sarajevo-Tuzla. Even though he begged the policemen not to take him to Sarajevo, but to a friend in Tuzla, Herenda was taken to a hospital in Sarajevo and admitted to the urgent care department. In the night between June 29 and 30 Ugljen and Enver Mujezinovic, despite assigned Police guards, entered Herenda's hospital room and had a long conversation with him. During police questioning in the hospital Herenda gave the names of his abductors: Edin Garaplija, Haris Pezo, Refik Muran, Hasan Pervan, Esad Cancar and Kemal Copra.
Arrest, Investigation, Verdict
Garaplija was arrested on July 2, 1996. Immediately before the arrest he was contacted by AID official Fikret Masic. They met at the train station where Garaplija was advised to keep quiet about everything. In return he was to be released due to "lack of evidence". The same message was later passed on via lawyer Fahrija Karikin. Immediately after the arrest, President Izetbegovic appointed a commission for the investigation of this case, headed by Irfan Ljevakovic and Jusuf Pusina. Refik Muran, one of the arrested individuals, through Ljevakovic sent a letter to Izetbegovic in which he gave him a detailed account about the chronological order of all the events. He received the response via Jusuf Pusina that it was in their interest to keep quiet and that the verdict would only be valid for the public. During the investigation Garaplija used his right to remain silent. The prosecutor indicted him for abduction and attempted murder, and during the hearing in front of the cantonal court in Sarajevo he was defended by lawyer Karkin. The public was excluded from the main hearing. Herenda testified against the defendants. After hearing the witnesses, the court established that Garaplija had abducted and tried to kill Herenda. "With assistance of judge Amir Jaganjac they portrayed the whole thing as a conspiracy of us, three criminals, against exemplary citizen Herenda in order to get $250. The three of us, with our silence, believing that we were protecting the State Security Service, became expendable and the easiest solution for the problem that was not supposed to become public at any cost," says Garaplija. In the meantime Nedzad Ugljen worked on the Herenda case. But, it seems that he became an obstacle for the suppression of information about the case. Ugljen was killed in late September 1996. According to Garaplija "Ademovic took on himself the obligation to make sure that the three of us keep quiet. Alispahic took over Herenda, who stopped incriminating Ademovic as the person who ordered his arrest. Only Ugljen was left as an unresolved extra in the whole problem." According to another version Ugljen was killed because of suspicion that he had sold to the Americans information about the training camp Pogorelica. On June 13, 1997, the Cantonal Court in Sarajevo sentenced Garaplija to 13 years in prison for abduction and attempted murder of Nedzad Herenda, and the Federation Supreme Court confirmed the verdict on May 26, 1998.
Later Garaplija appealed the verdict of the Federation Supreme Court, as, according to the appeal, the verdict included many mistakes and erroneous legal decisions made by the Cantonal Court. One of them was the confusion of the terms "abduction" and "legal arrest based on an arrest warrant issued by superior officer", which is irrelevant for lay persons, but implied a difference of 5 to 10 years of prison sentence in this case. Garaplija requested from the Supreme Court to allow him to attend the hearing in order to be able to further explain the reasons for his appeal. During the procedure in front of the Supreme Court he was represented by a lawyer, but he was not personally present. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal as totally unjustified and confirmed the first degree verdict which thereby became final.
Federation BH president in December 1997 made a decision to pardon 108 convicts, but Garaplija was not among them. Garaplija at that point dismissed Fahrija Karkin as his defense attorney and hired Faruk Balijagic instead. When Bakir Alispahic was told that the "group" would go public with their story, he responded that they "could go ahead and publish everything, if they thought it would be helpful."
Lawyer Balijagic demanded the protection of law, but the federation prosecutor rejected that demand. The cantonal court rejected his request for retrial, and in the end the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal against that decision. It was obvious that a conspiracy was at work. Namely, during the trial of Garaplija relevant articles of the Procedure in Criminal Cases Law specified that the verdict could be annulled due to a significant violation of procedural rules, a violation of the criminal law itself, mistakes in the determination of relevant facts or the wrong sentence. The relevant article of the law about the AID is article 16 which states the following: "Authorized officials have the duty to carry out orders of the director or their direct supervisor related to official tasks and operations within the jurisdiction of the agency, except for those that would violate the Constitution or laws." Article 22 of the same law specifies that anyone can be kept in custody for 24 or 48 hours if the director of the AID or persons authorized by him to do so authorize that. "If a suit is initiated against the official of the agency, or he is charged with crimes in connection with use of firearms, use of force, or other measures while carrying out his duties and tasks, the AID shall provide defense and appropriate legal counsel for such a person," while the agent is obliged to protect state, military and official secrets. The obligation to protect secrets "continues even after the end of the employment with the agency". Lawyet Balijagic filed an appeal with the Human Rights Court, which was recorded as the case "Garaplija vs. Federation BH". Garaplija's appeal raised several issues. First, it claimed that Garaplija should have been pardoned by the president of the Federation BH in December 1997. Then, it claimed that Garaplija did not have a fair trial, including the right to adequate defense since his first defense attorney was appointed by the AID. Garaplija states in the appeal that he was ordered to arrest Herenda and keep him in custody, and under obligation of protecting official secrets about his job and the command structure of the AID, he was suggested to refrain from defending himself in court. Furthermore, Garaplija concluded that the guilty verdict was motivated by political reasons, in order to hide the criminal activities at the highest political level of the country. Finally, he complained that he did not have a chance to follow in person the appeal process in front of the Federation Supreme Court and requested from the Human Rights Court to order the Federation, as the defendant in the suit, to conduct a retrial in his case. That is how the story about "Seve" and the AID reached Slobodna Bosna.
Journalists, Politicians, Male and Female Prostitutes
Since the published articles persistently discussed connections between crime and the political leadership, Bakir Izetbegovic gave the first reaction to the article about Garaplija published in Slobodna Bosna on September 19, 1998. "Slobodna Bosna outdid itself this time! We haven't had a chance to see such a pile of nonsense and lies in such a small space until now. You mentioned my name three times in your article and lied every time..." AID director Kemal Ademovic reacted on September 26. "In the most recent two issues of your magazine you published a series of contradictory information about the Herenda case, which, in my opinion, does not contribute to a just resolution of the appeals process of Edin Garaplija... Of course, I am aware that the whole case, especially because of my position, requires special control and continuous public interest. By nature and professional orientation I follow the law and the Constitution and law are for me above all. Consequently, I claim that in my work so far I have exclusively followed the law about the AID which into detail specifies authority, rights and obligations of the director and employees of the agency." Having in mind the gravity of accusations presented in the mentioned articles, this rather meek reaction, as we found out later, was a result of compromise. Although Ademovic was advised from the cabinet to "attack the authors of the articles as soon as possible and as strongly as possible, the AID director nevertheless stuck to the legal sphere without ambitions to initiate private showdowns. That job was in the meantime taken over by one of journalists of Dnevni Avaz who recorded a casual conversation with the authors of the articles and passed it on "to the higher instances". A friendly conversation turned into a questioning about the "ultimate limits" and a warning that "if you don't stop in time, a dirty and underhanded showdown will follow." We did not have to wait long for it. Several days later, at a press conference, Alija Izetbegovic, a member of the BH Presidency, answering the question about articles regarding Garaplija case responded by saying the following: "The AID is the chief factor in our struggle against war criminals. The AID prepared those one thousand files sent to the Hague and that is probably the problem. I cannot interpret this differently from an attempt to assist war criminals, and hamper the AID in its struggle against crime. In my opinion this is not a patriotic act." Izetbegovic concluded this address to the journalists with the statement that "there are women and there are prostitutes. There are true journalists and journalists prostitutes". In a statement for BHP, carried by Oslobodjenje, regarding "different sensationalist rumors that have appeared in the press", on September 30 1998 he stated the following: "persons charged in the Herenda case have been given final verdicts by the Federation BH Supreme Court. Only court can establish whether that verdict is justified and just."
Although all the accused parties in this case were advised to react and attack the journalists, only a few did. Hajrudin Suman, the former director of the Bosnian Postal Service, denied that he was involved in the chain used to smuggle money out of Bosnia-Hercegovina to banks in Cyprus and Austria, under the guise of payments for postage stamps. "Human evil and malice are limitless. Not a single postage stamp was ever printed in Austria, and therefore it is impossible to connect me in any way with this case." Former BH presidency member Ivo Komsic denied that members of the presidency knew anything about "Seve". "Your desire to inform tha public about important events from the war is understandable. It is difficult to understand your pathological attempts to publicly discredit the institution of the BH Presidency and its members," Komsic wrote among other.
In October 1998, Belgrade daily Blic published a fake interview with Slobodna Bosna journalists under the headline "Bosnia Attacks Journalists," written by certain Branka Mitrovic. The interview is actually composed from polemical exchanges that had taken place on the pages of Slobodna Bosna, and all the purported answers were actually reactions of the said journalists to the reactions regarding the Garaplija case. In the mentioned period Edin Garaplija was transferred to the hospital in Zenica where his appendix was removed. Slobodna Bosna published an article about that. In November 1998 Ljiljan published an article under headline "Operation Slobodna", concluding that the operation Slobodna Bosna had failed. "That could be the shortest conclusion of the whole morbid forgery (with special emphasis on dramatic) that this weekly tried to inject in the hot atmosphere of the Garaplija case, clearly suggesting to its readers that an innocent appendix surgery was actually a murder attempt. Slobodna Bosna reporters bettered Sherlock Holmes. Just imagine! They discovered that appendix surgeries take place in hospitals! But, dark atmosphere, tension of Suljo's suspenders, rattling of chains used to, probably, tie the prisoner to the bed, vague statements implying something terrible... were all needed for that."
And while the public wondered whether "Seve" exist after all, on November 28, 1998, on page 20 of Oslobodjenje an obituary was published signed by "glory to Necko [Nedzad Ugljen], Seve."
Federation's Urgent Response
When the Human Rights Court requested a response to the suit by Edin Garaplija from the defendant, the Federation, the first response was "the Federation claims that the claims of the plaintiff are contradictory and untrue. The Federation suggests that the suit be dismissed as totally baseless and unacceptable."
Hague investigators who in May of this year for days questioned Garaplija about "Seve" in the barracks "Marshal Tito" in Sarajevo were of different opinion. The level of "initial" information at their disposal as well as the appropriate documentation at their disposal was surprising for all who were invited to testify about this case. Politicians, wartime commanders, and policemen all took their turn, but the key witness, Nedzad Herenda, was not there. Thus, the whole story indirectly gained in gravity. Explaining why Garaplija was not allowed to follow in person the appeals hearing in front of the Federation Supreme Court, as he had requested, the explanation sent by the Federation authorities to the Human rights Court stated that if he were present at the hearings Garaplija would have had to pay for the transport to the court house!? The Human Rights Court concluded that thereby "the Federation violated article 1 of the Treaty About Human Rights" and that the defendant had to be questioned at the Supreme Court, if he was prepared to present new facts relevant to the case. The Human Rights Court held hearings in the case 11 times, on September 11, October 13, November 13 and December 18, 1998, as well as January 13, February 11, March 10, May 11, June 6 and 8, and July 3, 2000, when the final decision ordering a retrial was made. "The decision about acceptability and merits" was the title of the document in which the Human Rights Court ordered the Federation BH to repeat the appeals process in the case against Edin Garaplija. "Based on the documents presented to the Human Rights Court, the court concluded that an arrest warrant for the arrest of Nedzad Herenda (17-18/96) existed and that Garaplija had the obligation to protect the secrecy of the official AID information," judge Giovanni Grass explained the decision reached by six votes for and six against, with the decisive vote of the presiding judge who together with the remaining judges from abroad voted for, while the local judges were against a retrial in the Garaplija case. Out of twelve judges of the Human Rights Court, six are local judges - Hasan Balic, Zelimir Juka, Mehmed Drekovic, Miodrag Pajic, Vitomir Popovic, Mato Tadic - while six are from abroad - Giovanni Grasso, Dietrich Rauschning, Jakob Moller, Manfred Nowak, Viktor Masenko-Mavi and Andrew Grotian. They unanimously decided that by October 7, 2000, the Federation BH must inform the Human Rights Court about the steps it will have taken to implement the instructions of the Court. The case continues...
Translated on October 11, 2001