At this point Željko contacted the president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND), Mr. Saša Leković and legal counsel for the HND’s Centre for Protecting Investigative Freedom, Ms. Vesna Alaburić. Despite the fact that Željko felt Ms. Alaburić would not be objective in his case, he no longer had any other options.
Index on Censorship
292 Vauxhall Bridge Road
London SW1V 1AE United Kingdom
Reporters sans frontières Secrétariat international CS 90247
75083 Paris Cedex 02
Zagreb, January 2016
Dear Sir or Madam,
No Croatian lawyers were willing to represent Željko (Peratović) in the legal proceedings for attempted murder and threats made to him and his crown witness in the case. As a result, Reporters Without Borders provided Željko with assistance from their Media Legal Defense Initiative.
Željko contacted five lawyers in this case, in addition to the lawyer recommended to him by the Media Legal Defense Initiative. After meeting with the MLDI recommended lawyer, he was skeptical that she would be objective. None of the lawyers contacted agreed to represent him, not even the one who had previously (successfully) represented him in legal proceedings brought against him by the former Minister of Internal Affairs, Tomislav Karamarko. The party Mr. Karamarko now heads won the recent parliamentary elections in Croatia.
The lawyer who had represented sister of Croatian political emigrant Bruno Bušić, killed by the Communist Police (UDBA) in Paris in 1978, also refused to represent Željko. This lawyer quickly looked at the case file and stated that there was no chance that the case could be won. Another lawyer who had represented Željko in proceedings in 2003 when he sued the Croatian Government after the Croatian Secret Service had named him to be a foreign spy told him to retract his case because she had been given information from the court that Željko would loose and be responsible for covering enormous court fees. As a result, Željko was forced to accept this compromise. The same lawyer later ignored his request that she represent him in his case as the victim of attempted murder. Another young lawyer and human rights activist stated that he did not specialise in criminal law and as a result could not represent Željko. He then recommended a colleague who had previously worked at the State Attorney’s Office. This lawyer excused himself saying that he was too busy to take on the case.
At this point Željko contacted the president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND), Mr. Saša Leković and legal counsel for the HND’s Centre for Protecting Investigative Freedom, Ms. Vesna Alaburić. Despite the fact that Željko felt Ms. Alaburić would not be objective in his case, he no longer had any other options. He provided them with copies of the investigation file he had received from the State Attorney and requested that the HND provide him with support. Furthermore, he requested that Ms. Alaburić take on his cases before the legal authorities, with the material assistance of the Media Legal Defense Fund. A month has passed since and Željko has not received a reply from either the HND or Ms. Alaburić.
Two cases have been brought before the courts. One is at the County Attorney’s Office, which is currently investigating the attempt on Željko’s life and has yet to provide information about whether the investigation has been completed and if charges have been brought or accepted by the Court.
Approximately one month ago Željko received a letter from the Karlovac County Attorney, who had been conducting an investigation into Željko’s report on two suspects who had threatened him and his crown witness in the first legal proceedings. The letter confirmed that the suspects had been charged for threatening him, but there has of yet been no confirmation on whether the Court has accepted the charges.
Although Croatia became the 28th member of the European Union in 2013, the repressive authorities (police, state attorney’s offices and courts) are still highly influenced by politics. As a result, Željko’s legal proceedings are still underway. In a country with a functioning independent judiciary this would not be the case. Željko’s cases are currently awaiting the formation of the new Government. This is a result of the new political regime putting its own people in key positions of the Police, State Attorney’s Office and Intelligence Agency and give direction to judges in the court system.
The recent Croatian elections have not changed anything in Željko’s case. The conservative coalition which had previously stated that they would work to investigate past events, especially crimes committed by the communist authorities, are no longer showing any interest in these issues. Instead of this, a technical-managerial-libertarian government is being formed, whose main goals are to maintain the privileges enjoyed by the Catholic Church, to restrict the hard-won rights of minorities (LGBT, women, national minorities as well as secularists and irreligious persons). This new government plans to use strong lobbying centers in the United States to attract investors to mega projects which will have a negative effect on the environment and will not have a long-term positive effect on Croatia, increasing the state’s public debt.
The president of the strongest party of the coalition which won the recent elections, Mr. Tomislav Karamarko, has already stated that he will be decreasing funding to the civil sector because he feels that non-governmental organisations do not work in the interest of the Croatian people. The Speaker of the newly-formed Parliament, who comes from the same party (the Croatian Democratic Union – HDZ) has announced that he will be changing the name of the Parliament back to the name that it had during NDH, the Nazi-supported regime in power in Croatia during World War Two. Parliament is currently known as the Croatian Parliament, and in his first speech after being sworn in, the new Speaker stated that one of his first initiatives would be to change Parliament’s name back to the Croatian State Parliament, which was the name was given in 1942 by Nazi leader Ante Pavelić.
On the other hand, the junior partner in the coalition which won the recent elections, the political network known as MOST, declared itself as being reformist in nature, with the goal of breaking down the corrupt dual-party system, shying away from stating any opinions on ideological issues during the recent campaign. However, its members are people who are ideologically conservative and Catholic, and some of them are former members of the Communist Party or former members of the Yugoslav National Army’s contra-intelligence agency.
These people enjoy the impressive logistical support of tycoons who were communists before the Homeland War but now support total economic liberalisation. Both the junior and senior coalition partners agree on the liberal economic model to govern the state and economy and have agreed upon a non-partisan prime minister who has been given the opportunity to form a government. This candidate was put forward by the lobby of former HDZ politicians, diplomats and lawyers based in the United States, who also have communist roots. Although they currently consider themselves to be great patriots, to date they have participated in the suspicious privatisation processes of former large and successful state firms, lobbying for companies backed by the American Republican Party such as ENRON, BEHTEL, Baxter to enter the Croatian market, companies which had corruptive dealings with the government in power.
With regard to Željko’s plans for activism in the future, given the political situation this will be more and more difficult. The current President of the HDZ party, who has served as head of the Intelligence Agency SOA and the Minister of Police has previously prosecuted Željko for his work on investigating and processing the murder of Milan Levar in 2000 (Tihomir Orešković & Mladen Markač). Despite its promises during the election campaign, where they were “only interested in” reforming the financial, state and local government systems, the junior coalition partner is now insisting on having their people head the Ministries controlling the police, judiciary and intelligence agencies. They have put forward Vladimir Faber, senior police officer, as their candidate for Minister of the Interior, a man who participated in obstructing the investigation into the murder of Milan Levar as Deputy Minister of the Police in 2000. Željko has evidence to show that the MOST network is backed by a lobby of shady communists and war-profiteers who want to take control of the repressive system in order to prevent investigations into their own pasts.
On 10 December 2015, Željko was invited by the European Parliament’s Information Office to participate at a public forum at the Faculty of Journalism of the University of Zagreb. The forum was dedicated to the Sahrov Prize being awarded to Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi. At this occasion Željko spoke about his own experiences as a hunted journalist and blogger and also took the opportunity to raise the students’ awareness about the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia and the role of Raif Badawi and his family. The next day, the same Information Office asked Željko to speak to the audience watching Saudi Arabia’s Secret Revolution at the Human Rights Film Festival and to explain the circumstances surrounding the Shiite revolution which recently resulted in the execution of Nimir al-Nimra, shown in the film, as well as the position of the religious majority of Sunnis who dare to be liberal minded and conduct investigations like Raif Badawi.
Željko was also invited by a colleague to speak about the same issues on Croatian Television’s Channel Four, after which the program’s editor was reprimanded. On 8 January 2016 Željko was a guest on N1, a regional cable network, speaking about the background on the problems surrounding the formation of a new government and the desire the junior coalition partner had expressed in taking charge of the repressive authorities. Many independent news portals reported on Željko’s statements during the program, and the ensuing comments included many warnings that Željko would again have to worry about his personal safety. Furthermore, over the past few months Željko and those he communicates with regarding the topics he is investigating have the feeling that their communications are being monitored by a third party, and Željko’s website, 45lines.com has been affected by ddos attacks.
Željko’s health has improved because he no longer has any illusions about the state of affairs in Croatia improving in the short term regarding his case or in general. He is currently preparing to move to Switzerland, where he has heard that that Reporters without Borders Switzerland has a special program for refugee journalists. As a result, we would like to request that you help us in finding a foundation which could provide him with a stipend to study English in Croatia in order to continue his work in a new country.
Thank you in advance,