NEWS

Jailed Croat ‘grilled’ in Hague

A Croatian tycoon – jailed in Greece and fighting extradition to Zagreb, which wants his help in the search for indicted war criminal General Ante Gotovina – said yesterday that he did not know where the fugitive general was. Hrvoje Petrac, 50, who is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether he should be extradited, said two officials from the Hague war crimes tribunal had met him in prison and offered to free him if he provided information on the wanted general. «They promised a lot if I would speak about Gotovina,» Petrac told Reuters at the Supreme Court. «That I would be free everywhere. I don’t know where he is.» Petrac is suspected of being a main helper of Gotovina, on the run since the UN tribunal indicted him in July 2001 for war crimes during Croatia’s 1991-95 war of independence amid the breakup of the former Yugoslav Republic. The European Union has made clear that Gotovina’s capture – or proof that Croatian authorities are making serious efforts to find him – is crucial to the former Yugoslav republic’s chances of joining the bloc. One problem for the authorities is that Gotovina is very popular among Croatians. «Gotovina is in the hearts of the Croatian people,» Petrac said. One of Petrac’s lawyers, Spiros Alfantakis, said his client’s life would be in danger if he were extradited. «There is a very high risk he will be submitted to torture or degrading or humiliating treatment during the interrogation as well as his incarceration in the prison of Zagreb,» Alfantakis said. «Unless his extradition is overruled, his life as well as his future in general is in danger,» he said. The hearing on his appeal against an extradition order has been postponed for a week until a Croatian-speaking interpreter could be found. «I hope I find justice at the Greek Supreme Court,» Petrac said. «I hope they will look deeply into my case.» Petrac was tried in absentia in Croatia and sentenced to six years in prison for masterminding the kidnapping of a 12-year-old boy and extorting money from his family. He was arrested by the Greek coast guard in August on an international warrant.