Croatian MP back on trial for wartime killings

Branimir Glavas | Youtube snapshot

A Croatian lawmaker, Branimir Glavas, whose conviction for wartime killings of Serb civilians during the 1990s war was suppressed by the country's top court, denied all charges at a retrial that opened Monday.

Glavas pleaded not guilty before a Zagreb court for ordering the 1991 abduction, torture and murder of at least 10 ethnic Serbs in the eastern town of Osijek at the start of the four-year conflict in Croatia, AFP reported.

Glavas was sentenced in 2010 to eight years in jail. He was accused of giving orders to members of a unit under his command to abduct, torture and murder Serbs in the eastern city of Osijek in late 1991, when he commanded the city’s defense forces.

The prisoners were taken to the banks of the Drava river, with their mouths sealed with gaffer tape, shot and dumped into the water, the indictment said.

But last year the Supreme Court annulled that verdict and ordered a retrial, following a Constitutional Court ruling that the original decision was invalid on procedural grounds.

Glavas, a former general and far-right lawmaker, was the highest-ranking Croatian politician to have been convicted by a local court for war crimes during the conflict.

He was re-elected an MP at 2016’s snap elections, but his parliamentary immunity was stripped ahead of the trial.

Croatia's proclamation of independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 sparked the war with Belgrade-backed rebel Serbs who opposed the move.

The proper handling of war crimes cases involving Croatia's own nationals was among key criteria for the country to join the European Union in 2013.

Glavas’ trial was initiated in 2007 in Osijek but the case was transferred to Zagreb, where Glavas was investigated for a separate atrocity against Serb civilians, also committed in Osijek in the early 1990s. Both investigations were then united in a single indictment.