Croatia intimidating Soros Foundation, claims US State Department

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The US State Department has criticised Croatia for intimidating non-governmental organisations. A State Department spokesman said that it was "unacceptable" for the Croatian government to engage in the public defamation of a pro-democracy foundation headed by the American billionaire, George Soros.

Spokesman James Foley said on Tuesday night that the United States believes that the Soros Foundation is making a "valuable contribution throughout Central and Eastern Europe, including in Croatia, to free speech and democratisation".

He also expressed concern about suggestions that the Croatian government is planning an intimidation campaign against opposition journalists and non-governmental organisations in Croatia.

Last Friday, two officials from an organisation funded by Soros were found guilty of fraud and received one-year suspended sentences. The trial in Zagreb district court was widely viewed as an attempt by Croatian government to crack down on foreign-funded groups that President Franjo Tudjman says "often have illegal and subversive intentions".

The attack on Soros officials came on the heels of Tudjman's speech last December in which he called the Hungarian-born US philanthropist George Soros an enemy of the state.

Croat authorities have also expelled from school a prominent human rights activist's daughter who took part in a theft. The daughter of Ivan Zvonimir Cicak - head of a Croatian branch of Helsinki Human Rights Committee and a staunch critic of the government's policies - was expelled from school last week following her involvement in a theft during a school trip in Italy.

This move was also seen in Zagreb as an act of official pressure on Cicak, who often has been exposed to public defamation for criticising the government's poor human rights record.

Croatia said that it was not trying to stop the work of the Soros Foundation. "All implications of political motives in this case should be dropped since it is obvious that the issue here is intention of financial malpractice," said a government spokesman.