petek, 12. oktober 2018

The court ruled I didn't defame ex Udba chief Janez Zemljarič

Dear journalist colleagues and my followers!

I would like to inform you that the court found me not guilty for defamation of the former Slovenian communist secret police Udba head Janez Zemljarič. The Ljubljana district court at the end of the trial on 1 February acquitted me in a private criminal complaint which was filed against me by Mr Zemljarič. On 12 September, his appeal was turned down by the Ljubljana court of appeal. The latter confirmed my exemption judgment taken by the Ljubljana district court. Both of the courts decided that I as a journalist had a justified reason to believe the documents of the former secret police found by a researcher Roman Leljak in the State Archive are authentic.

In January 2014 I wrote for the Reporter weekly magazine some articles about the Udba crimes in Austria and Germany in the 1970s. I wrote about murders of Croatian emigrants committed by the killer agents of the Yugoslav secret police Udba. Janez Zemljarič was at the helm of its Slovenian branch in 1975 when Nikica Martinović was murdered in his greengrocer in Klagenfurt. Mr Zemljarič claims he has nothing to do with the murders of Croatian emigrants. He denied that the Slovenian Udba murdered Martinović as well as any other Croatian emigrant. He felt dishonoured because of the published articles, so he filed a criminal complaint against me and my photographer for defamation. Just before the trial started he withdrew a complaint against the photographer but he insisted on prosecuting me.

Mr Zemljarič had also prosecuted Mr Leljak but he had lost that case too. Now I'm still waiting for the trail on behalf of Silvo Gorenc, the former head of the Yugoslav Udba, for the same articles. Finally, I would like to thank my solicitor Radovan Cerjak for an excellent defence. It was my privilege to be represented by a solicitor who achieved a ban of Tito's street in Ljubljana by the Slovenian Constitutional court.

Here are links for more information about this case:

četrtek, 23. november 2017

The Former Head of the Slovenian Communist Secret Police against a Journalist: The Trial Starts on Monday 4 December

Dear journalist colleagues
I would like to invite you to follow the trial against me and my photographer on behalf of the former head of the Slovenian communist secret police Udba. According to the Slovenian Penal Code defamation in the printed media is punishable by fine or by imprisonment up to six months. On Monday 4 December at 8.30 at the Ljubljana district court a trial starts for defamation of the former Slovenian Udba head Janez Zemljarič who felt dishonoured because of articles I wrote in the Reporter weekly magazine in January 2014. In these articles I wrote about the murders of Croatian emigrants abroad in 1970s by killer agents of the Yugoslav secrete police Udba. My story followed the extradition of two Croatian former Udba heads Josip Perković and Zdravko Mustač against whom a trial started in Germany and who later were found guilty and sentenced to a life prison.
The former chief of the Slovenian communist secret police Udba Janez Zemljarič filed a private criminal complaint against me and my photographer for defamation due to three articles in the weekly magazine Reporter. Since I wrote some articles about his role in the Udba murders of Croatians emigrants he felt dishonoured. Mr. Zemljarič has felt also dishonoured because of two published photomontages on the front pages of the magazine, thus he blamed the photographer Primož Lavre for doing this. In fact the photographer has nothing to do with these photomontages, he is not even the author of the published photographs. On the first photomontage there is Mr. Zemljarič shown as a man with a machine gun, there are also photos of the murdered Croatian emigrant Nikica Martinović and his probable murderer, the Udba agent called Hanzi. The first article has the title Call Zemljarič for Murder. On the second photomontage Mr. Zemljarič is standing with his Udba companion Mr. Silvo Gorenc both armed with guns and there is also Mr. Milan Kučan, the former chief of Slovenia’s Communist Party, above them as an angel. The second article has the title An Angel between the Executioners. The third annoying article has the title Face to face with Zemljarič.
In fact there is no valid basis for Zemljarič’s complaint regarding the articles. My articles were written on the basis of a document found by the researcher Roman Leljak in the state archive. According to this document dated 4 February 1975 the chief of the Udba section for hostile emigration Milan Pavlin wrote to the Udba chief Janez Zemljarič that they were planning some concrete actions against extremists as opponents living abroad were marked. Pavlin mentioned two Croatian extremists, one living in the USA who was planning to visit Vienna, and the second who hadn’t been yet chosen but it was up to Hanzi to find one of the extremists he knew very well. Later they would decide whom Hanzi should target. Zemljarič as chief of the Udba approved these actions writing the manuscript: “I agree with the proposals.” There is also his signature under his written text. On the same day when Pavlin wrote to Zemljarič Hanzi got two passports and ammunition for the machine gun. Two weeks later Nikica Martinović was shot dead in his greengrocer in Klagenfurt.
Besides this document in the state archive a document was found which shows that the Croatian emigrants in Carinthia had been observed by Udba since 1962. The document, also signed by Zemljarič, consists of a plan to eliminate an organisation called Bleiburg Honorary Line till May 1975. Martinović was the secretary of this organisation which was planning to organise the great commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the so called Bleiburg slaughter in May 1945. This commemoration would have been held on the former Bleiburg battle field and well visited by numerous Croatians from around the world. The Yugoslav authorities were very angry whenever emigration groups reminded about the crimes committed by Tito’s partisans after World War II.
Zemljarič claims that he has nothing to do with the murders of emigrants. He denied that the Slovenian Udba murdered Martinović as well as any other Croatian emigrant. According to his words Martinović was assassinated by the Croatian terrorist group called the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood which he had belonged to. Zemljarič filed a document showing that this organisation admitted the assassination of Martinović due to his treason. But this document is very suspicious since it is not a part of the state archive. Moreover, asking the expert for Croatian emigrant organisations Mr. Bože Vukušić who is also the author of a book about the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood he replied that the seal on this document is forged. This seal was used only by the first leader of this organisation who was kidnapped and murdered in 1965, so ten years before the assassination of Martinović. Vukušić sent me the original seals used by this organisation and they all differ from that in the document filed by Zemljarič. Vukušić therefore filed a complaint to the police against Zemljarič due to forgery. So we could expect a very interesting discussion on 4 December when the trial for defamation in court starts. It is not surprising that few weeks ago Zemljarič lost the trial against Leljak who had been also sued by him for defamation in the same case.
Janez Zemljarič was the chief of the Slovenian Udba from 1974 to 1978, after that he was Secretary of the Interior till 1980 and then the President of the government of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia till 1984. This is not the only criminal complaint for these articles against me. There is also Mr. Silvo Gorenc who was the head of the Yugoslav Udba from 1972 to 1974, before that he was the head of its Slovenian branch and the Secretary of the Interior from 1966 to 1969 and 1969 to 1972 respectively. He also felt dishonoured because of articles I wrote in the Reporter weekly magazine in January 2014. The preliminary hearing at the Ljubljana district court took place in November 2014 but the trial hasn’t been called yet. I wrote more about this case in my blog:

petek, 20. marec 2015

Slovenian photojournalist sentenced to five months prison for taking photos of the former PM

By Igor Kršinar

The former Slovenian freelance photojournalist Jani Božič was given a suspended sentence for the period of five months prison for taking photos of the then Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek while she was reading a message on her mobile phone. After that he published this snapshot on his webportal where it could be seen that Ms Bratušek received a congratulation message from the prominent Slovenian businessman Peter Kraljič twenty minutes before the official announcement of her election as PM. After the publishing of this photo Ms Bratušek visited the police and criminally charged Božič for breaching the confidentiality of the media. The case was taken over by state prosecution and after nine months of trial he was found guilty and sentenced to five months of prison conditionally for the period of two years. His attorney Radovan Cerjak announced an appeal on the second level court.

Despite the fact that accused photojournalist and his attorney both warned the first level court that such photos are published in another European media without legal consequences – for example in Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Croatia - the judge didn’t follow the defence. The judge said that she didn’t know above mentioned European cases but she was obliged to judge in line with Slovenian legislation which doesn’t allow such deeds. The Slovenian public, especially journalists, were appalled because of this sentence. The Association of the journalists and commentators called for changes to the Slovenian Penal Code in such directions that journalists wouldn’t be punished for their work any more. This requirement has been supported also by the newly established Initiative for the Freedom of Speech which also warned from an increasing restriction of the freedom of speech and certain convictions of some journalists in Slovenia in recent years.

Jani Božič lives with his family in London where he now works as a photographer. He was forced to leave his homeland due to the pressure he was exposed to because of his work. If his conviction will be confirmed also by the Higher Court this would mean that Slovenian politicians have more personal rights than their colleagues in other European countries, and that Slovenian journalists have less media freedom than their colleagues in the U. K., Italy, Germany and Croatia.

See also: