JANUARY 3 2014 22:35h

Munich judge sure that Perkovic was accomplice in Djurekovic murder




German jurist Bernd von Heintschel-Heinegg, who was the main judge in the trial against Krunoslav Prates who is currently serving a life sentence for his part in the assassination of Yugoslav dissident Stjepan Djurekovic near Munich in 1983, has told Deutsche Welle that he is confident that Josip Perkovic, a former Yugoslav and Croatian intelligence agent, was an accomplice in the murder of Djurekovic, who was killed following an order from the top leadership of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).

"At the end of the trial we were confident that Perkovic was an accomplice in the Djurekovic murder. Perkovic was the man who gave instructions and held everything under control. But, Perkovic had no personal gain from the murder. It was ordered by the top political leadership," said Von Heintschel-Heinegg, who now works as a lawyer.

In 2008, Krunoslav Prates, a Croatian citizen, was convicted by the Munich High State Court to life imprisonment for his role in the execution of Djurekovic, who was found dead in a garage in the Bavarian town of Wolfratshausen. According to the German weekly newspaper Focus, five shots were fired at the victim and he was also hit with an axe on the head.

Prates was arrested in July 2005 on suspicion that he had helped prepare the Djurekovic murder. The German state prosecution suspects Djurekovic was killed by members of the then Yugoslav State Security Service (SDS). Djurekovic left the former Yugoslavia for political reasons after the Yugoslav authorities labelled him a dangerous Croatian nationalist.

During the Prates trial, a key witness was Vinko Sindicic, who also used to work for the Yugoslav-era secret agencies.

Many observers in Croatia and Germany have wondered whether Sindicic could be trusted as he himself was engaged by Yugoslav secret agencies.

"Sindicic was an important witness for us," Von Heintschel-Heinegg said.

"We came to the conclusion that as far as the data pertaining to the Djurekovic murder are concerned, Sindicic was telling the truth," the former judge said, adding that Sindicic's testimonies were checked and confirmed by other sources.

Asked by Deutsche Welle to assess the likelihood of Perkovic's extradition to Germany, Von Heintschel-Heinegg said everything indicated that it was in the interest of Croatia's authorities to have Perkovic's trial in Croatia.

"Another option is to put Perkovic to trial in Germany, and in the event of a guilty verdict he may serve his sentence in Croatia, but that is currently not in the focus," the German jurist said.

During the Prates trial it became clearer and clearer that the Djurekovic murder was not a classic example of removal of political and ideological enemies, but a personal grudge of a high-ranking politician, he added.

We are sure that Djurekovic was killed because he knew too much, which some found too dangerous for them, Von Heintschel-Heinegg said.