EU officials have praised Croatia for using the European arrest warrant, which has been the subject of a months-long dispute between Brussels and Zagreb.
By Kruno Kartus for Southeast European Times in Osijek -- 21/01/14
Former Croatian spy Josip Perkovic leaves a Zagreb court on January 8th after it backed his extradition to Germany where he is sought in connection with the 1983 murder of a Croatian political immigrant. [AFP]
EU officials have praised Croatia for using the European arrest warrant, which has been the subject of a months-long dispute between Brussels and Zagreb for months.
With the application of the warrant, Zagreb will extradite Josip Perkovic, a high-ranking chief of the secret police of the former Yugoslavia State Security Administration, to Germany, where he is charged with involvement in the 1983 murder of Croatian dissident Stjepan Djurekovic.
Djurekovic, a former commercial director of INA, Croatia's oil company, was thought to have been killed because of his alleged involvement financing exiled sympathisers of the nationalist Ustasha movement.
On January 8th, a Zagreb court ruled that Perkovic could be extradited under the warrant. The European arrest warrant, which came into force in Croatia on January 1st just hours before Perkovic's arrest, provides quick and easy interstate extradition of criminal suspects.
"It's a good start. Without prejudging the outcome of a possible court verdict of a higher court in this specific case, it seems that the European arrest warrant is starting to function as it should in Croatia," the European Commission's Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Office, told SETimes in a statement.
Croatia amended its extradition law just days before joining the EU on July 1st, limiting the application of European arrest warrants to crimes committed after 2002. The change angered the European Commission, and prompted speculation that Perković was being shielded.
Perkovic became Croatia's intelligence chief after the country gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
In September, after the EU made several threats of sanctions, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic pledged to remove the limitations on the warrant beginning January 1st.
In addition to Perkovic, the German judiciary also wants Zdravko Mustac, former chief of the Yugoslavia State Security Administration, extradited for charges stemming from the same murder. However, on January 9th, a court in Velika Gorica rejected the German extradition request.
According to court spokesman Ante Zeljko, the judges said the statute of limitations had expired under the criminal code of 1990 and 1991, which bars extradition under national law.
Some said Perkovic should not be extradited due to the same reason.
"We did a thorough investigation across Europe. Absolutely everywhere, the statute of limitations, according to municipal law, is a barrier to extradition," said Anto Nobilo, the lawyer who represents both men, said.
Nobilo filed an appeal of the Zagreb court's ruling to the Supreme Court on January 14th.
The Zagreb County Prosecutor's Office has also appealed, claiming that the court has "violated the law and established a wrong and incomplete state of facts by concluding that the statute of limitations has not expired in the case, its expiry being an absolute preclusion to extradition."
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