Letter: Fate of Croats accused by their compatriots

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The Independent Online
Sir: I would like through your newspaper to ask Western governments that support President Tudjman of Croatia to consider the fate of people such as me before they return the Serbian-occupied parts of Croatia to his rule.

Before the war began, I was a political opponent of Mr Tudjman's ruling HDZ Party. I am a Croat, aged 50, and am crippled in both hips with arthritis. After Croatian forces withdrew from this area, my family home for the past 46 years, I stayed on my farm with my wife and children. I and many other Croatian families lived normal lives under the new Serbian government.

In May this year, I went to Zagreb to visit my elderly mother who is ill. I was arrested in my brother's home by Croatian police and taken to Osijek jail, where I was beaten on arrival. My jaw was broken.

Accusers said I was a traitor who had stayed in Ceminac, my home village, instead of leaving when the Croatian forces left. I tried to explain that I was a professor of political science, had been mayor of my village three times and had never taken part in any such action.

After two months, a lawyer told me that I had been charged with insurrection against the Republic of Croatia and could be jailed for a minimum of eight years and a maximum of 16. I had been found guilty in my absence, and the court was deciding on my sentence.

A few days later, the lawyer told me of a planned prisoner exchange with Serbia, and that he could put my name on the list if I paid him DM800. I had only DM600, and he accepted them.

I saw a list with 1,200 names, consisting of most of the Croatian families who had stayed behind in Baranja (part of Krajina). The policeman who showed me the list said they had many such lists, with all the local Serb families on them, and that when Croatia took back control of Krajina, they would carry out the sentences.

I saw many names I recognised: my wife and son, our doctor, many members of the local government, and teachers.

I have never taken up arms against Croatia. When the war began, I simply tried to go on living, as did so many people of this area. Why then are we guilty? Of what are our wives and children guilty?

I beg you to see that this war is not one-sided. Mr Tudjman is not running a Western-style democracy. The television pictures in the West are far removed from what is happening to those Croatian people who seek to oppose Mr Tudjman's regime.

I, who have never fought and cannot walk without help, will now fight to stop my family receiving the same treatment as I received. Because of this letter, I can expect to swim in the river Drava if the Croatian police take contol again. I will not be fighting for Serbia, but for the right to live. Do not imagine that the UN troops will protect us. They are in Osijek, but that did not prevent my torture or the deaths of many prisoners.

Yours faithfully,

CVETKOVIC FRANJO

Ceminac

Baranja, Slavonia

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