by Milos VASIC
We do not know whether Svetozar Karan (53) from Korenica was aware of the aforementioned Dr. Tudman's statement, given that he timely escaped together with another 180,000 Serbs from Croatia. But, even if he knew about the statement, it is unlikely that he would have drawn a parallel between the "Ottoman era" and the sad fate that - as it later turned out - awaited him. That fateful connection was explained to him by the County Court in Gospic on July 30, 2003, in the verdict that sentenced him to 13 years in prison for two crimes against humanity and international law. We shall later return to the verdict, written by judge Branko Milanovic and his judicial bench, consisting of five judges.
Svetozar Karan from Korenica, based on everything that is known about him, was an ordinary Serb from Lika. In 1991, he was mobilized as a reserve Croatian policeman to the Krajina Police. Then he was moved to the Military Police of the Army of Serb Krajina (1994-1995); he was in charge of checkpoints, running patrols and keeping watch in different locations, including the prison for prisoners of war in the village of Frkasic. In August 1995 Karan escaped to Serbia with other Serbs who for some reason did not trust Tudman's calls to stay in Croatia; graves of those who decided to trust Tudman testify that Karan made a correct decision. In October 2000 Svetozar Karan obtained Croatian documents and returned to Korenica, where all of his property, everything he earned as a restaurateur, can be found. He returned to Korenica without any problems and lived there uneventfully until October 30, 2002, when he was summoned for questioning to the local Police station and taken into custody. He was charged with beating and maltreating prisoners of war on two occasions: in 1991 and 1994.
INDIRECTLY DIRECT: That's where problems with evidence started. Namely, as a reserve policeman Karan mostly worked in shifts on checkpoints and seldom visited the Police station where - according to the indictment - two Croat policemen were beaten in 1991. The victims, Croat policemen, were not sure whether Svetozar Karan beat them. Moreover, they said that they did not know who beat them. According to Karan's statement, confirmed by several witnesses, the situation in the station was totally chaotic and various residents of Knin would come and beat prisoners for fun. The keys to the prison were held by the guards on duty and they guarded prisoners as they found fit. Starting with the end of 1991 Karan served with a company of the Military Police, first in Korenica and later, in 1994, on the front line in Kozjan. He was even assigned to the artillery (about which he knew nothing), and in the end was sent to Frkasic where he occasionally served as the guard on duty at the prison. He claimed that he had not beaten anyone, described how he had been dressed and listed all the times when had been on duty at the prison. Witness testimony favorable for Karan was rejected by the court based on the following judicial reasoning: how come they recall that Karan was here or there, but they do not remember every single person that was also at that spot? Therefore, given that Karan was not on the Pljesevica mountain because of snow, the court concluded that he had to be in Korenica and there - what else - beat prisoners of war. The verdict includes a few more pearls of logical reasoning: given that Karan saw one of the plaintiffs through a window, the court concluded "indirectly" that he must have beaten that man. The term "indirectly" is probably the most frequently used word in the verdict. The court found reason to believe a witness who claimed that he was non-stop unconscious while in prison, but "indirectly" knows that "Karan beat him". "Indirectly", the court concluded, Karan was implicated by the statements of several witnesses who were at that time in the Korenica prison, "although the witnesses cannot identify or name persons who beat them". The fact that several persons beat the prisoners is sufficient to "indirectly", what else, conclude that Karan was also there, since several persons participated in the beatings, so that the court "without any doubt established" that the accused committed the crime he is accused of. "True", the court continues, eight witnesses "attempted to assert that the accused was not in Frkasic at the time crimes took place," giving detailed descriptions of places and circumstances in which they saw him at that time, but the court decided to dismiss their testimony. On the other hand, the court chose to trust another two witnesses, because they had documentation about injuries, even though they could not say who caused those injuries.
The key reason given for rejecting the defense of the defendant and testimony that favored his case was "simple". Namely, while the defendant questioned one of the prosecution witnesses, and was interrupted by the witness, Karan "with raised voice told witness Nikola Nikolic to ‘Shut up until I finish!', which clearly demonstrated commanding nature of the defendant". That "commanding nature" apparently was decisive for the court's verdict as at another place the court explains that the fact that one of the witnesses "was fearful" indicates that another 13 witnesses were also totally terrified of commanding Karan, and consequently did not dare tell the truth, since Karan - being so fearsome - must have been some very important officer and commander, even though he is currently in custody and under control of the Republic of Croatia and even though he was merely a Police corporal by rank.
FAINTING WITNESSES: The verdict clearly indicates the importance of Svetozar Karan. "The official document confirming that the defendant participated in training at the Police station in Korenica, indicates that he is the one who tried from the start to prevent the Croat people from deciding about its freedom" etc. The fact that Karan was summoned to the training by the then deputy Minister of Internal Affairs (Police) Slavko Degoricija from the HDZ was deemed irrelevant by the court. "The court rejected the defendant's claim that he could not be at the same time at two different locations"; no, this is not a joke! Also, the court found it irrelevant that the person described by the plaintiffs as the one who beat them did not resemble Karan at all, since the plaintiffs were beaten and unconscious and obviously could not remember correctly who beat them! Besides, Karan apparently kept disguising himself, says the court, as otherwise witnesses would have definitively recognized him; according to the court Karan kept growing, than shaving his beard, although witnesses testified that he never wore beard in his life. The pinnacle of logical reasoning follows: "The witnesses did not exclude the possibility that the defendant maltreated and beat Nikolic and Lukac, by saying that the defendant did not maltreat them as well".
Now we reach the higher level of reasoning of the County Court in Gospic, the level that has to do with history, geopolitics and everything else, since elementary criminal law and logic were not enough. At that level we can find the answer about the guilt of Svetozar Karan from Korenica, who returned home convinced that he was not guilty of anything and lived for two years in peace in Lika. That level is a higher and long-term level of fate and future of Serbs in Croatia, those who stayed and want to return. The decision of judge Branko Milanovic and his bench, even if it is a first instance verdict, clearly indicates an attitude, conviction and ideology. Therefore, on page 23 of the first instance verdict in case against Svetozar Karan from Korenica we can find (literal quote, just like all the other quotes from the verdict in the article):
900 YEARS: "The court rejected defendant's statement regarding his, as he said, voluntary return to Croatia, because the defendant had returned to the crime scene..." (skipping irrelevant details). "At the same time, it should be mentioned that it can only be concluded that the defendant realized that Croatia is currently in such a state that it will quickly and simply disappear from the world stage, because Croats are dissatisfied with their status, and it is highly possible that their mutual disagreements may result in such conflict that they may again seek someone who would exploit them, as happened for the last 900 years, and in the last 80 years the defendant and his ancestors were the exploiters, and they enjoyed exploiting; and why would not he return, when it is very likely that he may again end up in the same position, because Croatia is definitively, according to those from abroad, on the edge of chaos; and that is a moment when the ‘Memorandum' can finally be realized fully, and they almost succeeded in realizing it. Vojvodina, Srijem, and half of Bosnia have been occupied, and the other half will easily be taken care of; only the line Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag remains, which is why all the criminals who committed crimes are returning, while they actually committed genocide against croats (sic!); and not only in this war, but together with others they did that during 500 years since the arrival of the Ottomans, when together with Turks they came and destroyed Croats; and since they ‘attached' these territories to Yugoslavia and practically destroyed them in some regions and now want to occupy until (sic!) the Ottomans reached, and together with the Ottomans until the defendant and his ancestors reached, and Croatia would remain only what was known as ‘Remnants of the remnants of Croatia' (reliquia reliquiarum). However, in spite of that and despite crimes committed by the defendant he was practically rewarded; he took everything he had to Serbia and came back to be rewarded by Croatia... and someone has to command the returning populace, which is why the defendant came back. One of the reasons for his return is the final destruction of Croatia, because an economically exhausted state will on her own give in to her enemies and that is a reward for the committed deeds, which is also why he came back to Croatia".
Therefore, everything is clear: Karan missed exploiting the Croat people and enjoying the exploitation, just like his ancestors who came with the Ottomans; Croatia is about to expire because of Karan and his Ottoman allies; Karan left such impression that until this day everyone is shaking with fear; Franjo Tudman was right when he warned that Serbs would never have the role they enjoyed since the Ottoman presence in the Balkans; and Karan will not exploit the Croat people, because, fortunately the County Court in Gospic is there to save Croatia, Europe and civilization as such.
(source of all quotes: Verdict of the County Court in Gospic number K-4/03'185, issued on July 30, 2003)