SUN, 09 FEB 1997 22:44:14 GMT
AIM Zagreb, 2 February, 1997
"Amigo, you will never be able to prove that we had bugged your phone", said by now already former minister of police Ivan Jarnjak to the also former chairman of the Supreme Court of Croatia Krunislav Olujic, as the courier from the Presidential Palace who conveyed the message that the head of the state had demanded his resignation. The demand was garnished by blackmail: if he agreed he could become a diplomat, but if not - his intimate dirty linen would be dumped out in public with data collected by tapping his phone. Olujic refused, and then he was replaced in a hurry. In a disciplinary procedure initiated against him at the request of the Government, allegedly for tarnishing the reputation of the judiciary, Olujic was removed from the post at the Supreme Court, but the real, longterm loss will after all be on the other side.
The regime achieved its goal in the sense that it could install at the post in the Supreme Court a man who it could trust more that Olujic. Reliable sources claim that Tudjman will again nominate Milan Vukovic for the post, who is at the moment a judge of the Constitutional Court and who chaired the Supreme Court from 1992 until 1995. Vukovic is remembered mostly for the statement that the Croats could not have committed war crimes in their defensive war, which was supposed to mean that anything was permissible in defence. It can be expected that his professionalism will continue to suffer in the future because of his forced "patriotism". It is generally assessed that Vukovic will to the utmost serve the interests of the Presidential Palace, which will be especially important when the Croats soon go to the polls. Chairman of the Supreme Court is in the line of duty at the same time President of the Electoral Committee is in charge of legality of the elections. This was the real reason for the hurried replacement at the top of the judiciary.
It is true, however, that Olujic was not disloyal either. As soon as he had come to the post from which he was recently removed, he helped installation of mechanisms by means of which the ruling Croat Democratic Community (HDZ) controls the judiciary, those same ones which have now turned against him. How come that later on he increasingly insisted on independence of the judiciary - it has never been clarified to the end. But, as his lawyer Anto Nobilo established, "squaring of accounts with Olujic began at the moment he had decided to keep the distance from the executive power, as prescribed by the Constitution". Croatia is full of people who had helped Tudjman establish his authoritarianism, and then they themselves became its victims.
Olujic was publicly accused of lascivity with adolescents (pedophilia), and for weeks, and even months, the police combed through his domicile Osijek seeking for evidence. They did not find any. In the end he was sentenced because he kept company with people who have police dossiers. Allegedly, in this way he tarnished the reputation of the Court. If this criterion were applied to other participants in power, say to ministers, hardly anyone would be left in the current administration.
That this was a staged political process - it was clear from the very beginning, but that there would no attempt whatsoever to at least keep up the illusion of legality - it is nevertheless surprising. Lawyers claim that they have never experienced such violation of laws, they say that the communist regime in such cases tried to follow the procedure, demanding that at least an impression be created of legal court proceedings, and not of a political execution. The state tribunal which conducted the disciplinary procedure against Olujic, did not bother about anything of the kind.
The case was opened by the method of lynch - Olujic was first publicly, on state television, accused of sexual deviation and keeping company with criminals, and then the process was continued behind closed doors, as it was said for the sake of protecting his reputation and honour. There was nothing in material evidence but a phonogram of secretly recorded telephone conversations and testimonies of secret police agents. The defence was not allowed to present a single one out of forty odd evidence proposals. The lawyers claim that they do not remember a trial in which anything of the kind happened. Witnesses were forbidden to answer to 90 per cent of the questions put by the defence. A member of the state tribunal appeared in a double role - he started the trial as a judge and continued as a witness, which is an absolute judicial precedent. The members of the state tribunal were not at all interested in establishment of facts, they acted as if they had had a mission and they accomplished it - the severest disciplinary punishment was administered to Olujic. Although the leading personage of Croatian judiciary, he was not given a chance to defend himself in a regular trial. Experts claim that his replacement was performed in an utterly illegal manner. The sentence is based on a crime which legally does not exist. Olujic was released on main charges - pedophilia - but he was punished for publicly keeping company with "persons of criminal behavior". Criteria according to which a person is proclaimed to be a criminal in this case were extremely dubious. Should it be said that keeping company with "persons of criminal behavior" is not a crime according to any legal regulation?
Olujic lodged an appeal and he will use all legal remedies to change this decision, but it is difficult to believe in such an outcome. The Chairman of the Supreme Court of Croatia relieved of duty in this scandal might not be able to prove that his telephone was illegally tapped (just as he could not prove anything else, because his evidence was not taken into account at all). But the entire process which was instituted against him results undoubtedly in only one thing - that the big ear is on guard above all the Croats, maybe more than ever. The topic of the role of bugging devices in Croatian democracy has been opened. When he talked about highly equipped and organized repressive services, the known Zagreb lawyer, Anto Nobilo, especially stressed great import of bugging equipment. He supported this with three arguments. First, he said that based on what was passing through his lawyer's office he observed "high dissemination of application of bugging devices". Second, secret services were constantly reinforced. Enormous resources were invested in them. Third, Nobilo said, there were information from abroad about purchases of modern bugging devices for the needs of the Croatian state. He believes that this equipment is not intended for revealing spies, because a minor number of devices is needed for that, since such things are done with a specific target and not at random.
When bugging devices are imported in such great numbers it means that they will be used against many people. Forecasts are that control of the population will intensify. The more threatened the regime feels, the more it will resort to repression. This is illustrated by the way Olujic was eliminated. That is how the biggest share of the public understood this scandal. That is why the regime which has become notorious for using such methods, has in fact suffered a loss in the long run. Olujic has lost the post of the chairman of the Supreme Court, but he has acquired the halo of a victim of Tudjman's despotism. In the long run, it may even prove to be profitable. He has lost support of the head of the state, but he has won public support he had never had before. At present, every attack by the authorities is considered to be a recommendation for a big portion of the public. Another inversion occurred - they had tried to roll Olujic in tar and feathers, but he emerged from it purer than ever. Instead of him, the regime proved to be dirty.