The long-running trial against Mihajlo Hrastov, former Croatian special forces policemen, restarted today at Croatia’s supreme court, more than 20 years after he was first charged with war crimes.
Hrastov was released from prison last year when the constitutional court dismissed his sentence of seven years imprisonment because it had not been formerly published.
The Hrastov trial has been one of the longest in Croatian judicial history. The suspect has been released three times now and twice convicted for killing 13 captured Yugoslav army, JNA, soldiers in 1991 in the Croatian city of Karlovac.
In May last year, his sentence of seven-years imprisonment was confirmed, and Hrastov started to serve the punishment. But the Croatian constitutional court rejected the punishment in November last year, because the supreme court, which convicted Hrastov, had failed to publish the sentence.
The case has been an emotional one for Croats. In Karlovac, the city in central Croatia where the crime was perpetrated, Hrastov is regarded by many as a war hero.
Karlovac, at the frontline during the Croatian war for independence in 1991, was heavily damaged.
Local war veterans’ organisations have condemned the trail, while human rights NGOs have warned that it represents a major test for the Croatian judiciary.
Hrastov was charged with shooting and killing 13 captured JNA soldiers on September 21, 1991, at Koranski Most in Karlovac.
He was released for the first time in September 1992 by Karlovac county court. In March 2007, Karlovac court released him for the third time, after the supreme court struck out two earlier Hrastov's acquittals at Karlovac court.
After that, Croatian supreme court took on the case.
In May 2009, Hrastov was convicted to eight years in prison by the supreme court.
The appeal chamber reduced the sentence to seven years in January last year, and Hrastov started to serve the punishment.
But Croatia’s constitutional court struck out that sentence in November, saying that the failure to publish the decision breached Hrastov’s human rights.
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