DOSSIER PERATOVIĆ VII: The isolation is the worst thing a person can experience

Then a period of complete isolation followed. That isolation is the worst thing a person can experience. When you’re in jail, at least you have someone to talk to. To share your experience. This way, you’re shunned by everyone and you’re all alone with your family and few friends that stuck around. The external world is unavailable to you. You go from being a provider for the family to being a parasite. My family had to support me. It became incredibly hard to face my wife, my mother-in-law, my father. To top it all, at the time I was fired, my mother died. It felt as if theworld came tumbling down on me. There were days that I wasn’t able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

fairpress.eu, Authors: M. Podumljak and I. Horvatek. May 19, 2015

After his contract was terminated in Vjesnik, journalist Željko Peratović initiated a number of court proceedings. Lawsuit for mobbing, i.e., harassment in the workplace against Vjesnik and the state as the owner of Vjesnik.
Some of those legal proceedings were, at some point, unified. At the same time, he started treatment due to his deteriorating physical and mental state. He was suffering from psychological symptoms of mobbing that consequently started to manifest physically. His situation was caused by continuous stress he was exposed to. He thought that his biggest concern was to receive justice concerning the wrongful termination lawsuit. But the upper echelons made sure that wasn’t the case.

Already before all those developments, Peratović had started his own web site. Experimenting with new media, such as blogging, was already becoming very popular among journalists. Also, writing helped him cope with the loss of his job and the vocation he had chosen 15 years earlier. That’s how the blog 45 lines was created. He posted interesting stories about intelligence services, on people working there, on the sordid field operations those services were implementing under different excuses. The blog had its audience and its sources.

However, on October 17, 2007, police barged into Željko Peratović’s apartment, confiscated his communication devices and computers. The official reason was – he had posted a state secret. Applicants of the complaint – Zagrebačka County Police Administration and the Office of Director of SOA (The Security and Intelligence Agency). Tomislav Karamarko had by then already managed to unify all intelligence services in the Republic of Croatia under a roof organisation – SOA (The Security and Intelligence Agency) and appoint himself its official. The next day Peratović was released, with a criminal charge for giving away state secret.

The news that  Peratović arrested echoed around world

The ensuing days were all pretty much identical; either he was preparing for legal proceedings that he had to file in order to prove injustice or he was forced to attend the proceedings that the state was opening against him. At a certain point he felt like he was in a Matrix like parallel universe and that his troubles have peaked. But he was wrong. The state wasn’t done with him. Because, as we had stated in the beginning, the person who dares to oppose the current power system must not only be sanctioned, but convicted to eternal damnation, as to warn others not to follow his path. Already in 2009 Peratović was the subject of yet another investigation. This time is was an anonymous complaint for sexual harassment of his under aged daughter. That was the last drop. Peratović decided to take his family and leave Croatia.

RSF: Judicial harassment of Željko Peratović must stop / PUBLISHED ON FRIDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2010.

This is the way Peratović today views those dramatic times:

“What is there to say? Losing your job at a time in your life when you have a family destroys that little self-esteem that you have left. I applied for every journalist job I could find. But it’s like you’re branded. Simply no one wants to have anything to do with you, or wants to get to the bottom of your problem. It was like someone invisible behind the scenes was pulling the strings and shutting all the doors I was trying to open. Also, I was told by the unemployment office that no one was hiring journalists and that I didn’t have any rights to compensation because the termination of contract had been my fault. I tried to find work through people I knew, literally in all printed media, but the doors were shut for me everywhere. As if I was contagious.

Then a period of complete isolation followed. That isolation is the worst thing a person can experience. When you’re in jail, at least you have someone to talk to. To share your experience. This way, you’re shunned by everyone and you’re all alone with your family and few friends that stuck around. The external world is unavailable to you. You go from being a provider for the family to being a parasite. My family had to support me. It became incredibly hard to face my wife, my mother-in-law, my father. To top it all, at the time I was fired, my mother died. It felt as if theworld came tumbling down on me. There were days that I wasn’t able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The interesting thing is that when the anonymous complaint for sexual harassment of my child came, it sort of coincided with Karamarko’s dropping the case against me for public disturbance in 2009. So, you win a case, that gives you some small fraction of hope, and then something dreadful hits you over the head. When the procedure for sexual harassment against me started, after someone had filled an anonymous complaint, I was on the edge. So, I wasn’t allowed to stroke my child’s hair and complement her when she did something good. I had to weigh my every word and every action, having in mind that everything I do, the prosecutors could use as ‘another proof of my guilt’.

Words can’t describe what was happening to me in those days, months, years. That’s why I decided to go to Switzerland with my family. I thought about, especially when we left for Switzerland, giving up on those lawsuits and simply erasing all my life up to that point. However, my wife pushed me to stand my ground. She convinced me that she was standing by me and I should endure. It meant a lot to me, although I felt as it was my fault we were in that situation. The worst for me were the oscillations. Sometimes something would happen; some information would pop up in the media that would give me hope, only to sink again the next day.

I asked for help and support from associations in Croatia. But nothing happened. All the help I received came mainly from international organisations, Croatian Journalists’ Association and the occasional colleague. I was at a point where proceedings against me were being filed one after the other. All of them ended in my favour, all complaints that were filed against me were either discarded or I won the litigation. Regardless of that, each procedure robbed me of a small piece of my life.”

After all the evidence were analysed, Municipal Civil court of Zagreb passed a non-binding verdict in favour of Željko Peratović. The court ordered Vjesnik d.d. to compensate Peratović damages in the amount of HRK 89.250 and the costs of litigation in the amount of HRK 37.400 with added value of interest on arrears. The verdict stated that it was possible to make a complaint regarding the decision of the court to the County Court of Zagreb. Considering that Vjesnik was shut down, in case a legally binding verdict gets passed, Peratović is to be compensated by printing house Vjesnik owned by the state.

Seemingly, that is the end of the story. The court specified the perpetrators of Peratović’s hardship, which was the culmination of the ten years of hell that Peratović went through. A lot of unanswered question remain. One of them is the following: what is the system of value that sets the value of human suffering at HRK 89.000? That is truly sad. Tragic.

However, all is not well yet, seeing how we still do not have the answer to the question whether Željko Peratović’s excruciating life agony is over.

Reporters on the first day on the trial Mustač and Perković (17. October 2014). Left to right : Nenad Kreizer, Silvana Perica, Željko Petrušić, Srećko Matić and Željko Peratović.

Tomislav Karamarko is currently making another come-back. He is the president of a party that has the largest public support at the moment. The parliamentary elections are drawing closer. He could become the prime minister, and the liaison between the prime minister and the judiciary can lead to amazing twists. On the other hand, Peratović’s articles and sources are part of evidence on the trials against Perković and Mustač in front of the court in München. They are two individuals that have shown, on numerous occasions, how strong their tentacles of power are and how far they can reach. Maybe further than any border we dare to imagine.

However, we must hope there is justice and fairness. Justice gained in at least one case in our surroundings gives strength to all those who are suffering at the moment, falling down and getting up during their battles with the system which is relentless. All those people whose stories we haven’t told so far

County Court of ZagrebCroatian Journalists' AssociationisolationJosip PerkovićJudicial harassmentLosing jobMatrixmobbingNenad KreizerRSFsexual harassmentSilvana PericaSOASOA (The Security and Intelligence AgencySrećko MatićSwitzerlandVjesnikZdravko MustacŽeljko PeratovićŽeljko Petrušić
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