Artukovic Convicted, Sentenced to Death
ZAGREB, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The 86-year-old former interior minister of the Nazi puppet state of Croatia was found guilty today of ordering the massacres of hundreds of thousands of people during World War II, and sentenced to death by firing squad.
Andrija Artukovic, who was extradited from the United States on Feb. 2, was convicted by a five-judge panel of ordering the killings of 231,000 Jews, Gypsies, Serbs and political prisoners. ...............CORRECTIVE Sent June 4, 1986 FOLLOWS........................
The Associated Press, in stories about the trial of convicted Nazi war criminal Andrija Artukovic in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, erroneously reported that he had been declared legally blind and senile by U.S. judicial authorities.
Artukovic’s attorneys had argued that their client was legally blind and senile and was incompetent to participate in extradition proceedings, but no such finding was ever made by U.S. authorities. .............................................................................
The judicial panel, headed by Milko Gajski, said Artukovic was guilty of ″crimes against humanity″ as well as crimes against international law and war crimes.
The state-run Tanjug news agency said, ″Thus the month-long trial of the Himmler of the Balkans, responsible for the death of several hundred thousand people and for the suffering of millions of Yugoslavs, finally ends.″
Gajski, in a 30-minute summation, said Artukovic was guilty because ″under protection and in collaboration with the Nazis ... (he) ordered prosecution, torture and murder of... hundreds of thousands of Jews, Serbs, Croats and Gypsies, many of them women and children.
″This trial, which was awaited for such a long time, is the victory of justice,″ he said.
Gajski called Artukovic ″the master of life and death in the so-called independent state of Croatia.″
Artukovic, who fought extradition for 36 years while he lived in Seal Beach, Calif., previously had been declared senile and legally blind in the United States.
The five-judge panel earlier rejected a defense motion that the court allow an outside medical opinion on Artukovic’s ability to stand trial.
The panel ruled today that during the trial that began April 14, prosecutors proved all four specific charges in the 32-page indictment that accused Artukovic of ordering the massacres.
Throughout the trial, Artukovic maintained he never knew of the mass murders for which he was indicted. Most of the victims were killed in concentration camps.
Before the trial began, the government repeatedly accused Artukovic of being responsible for at least 700,000 deaths, but the indictment used the 231,000 figure.
Executions in Yugoslavia are by firing squad, but there was no immediate indication when the sentence would be carried out.
Under Yugoslav law, the former Croatian security chief has the right to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court of Croatia. If that is rejected he is entitled to appeal to the Yugoslav Supreme Court in Belgrade.
In Los Angeles, Artukovic’s son, Rad, a 37-year-old stock broker, today vowed to appeal his father’s conviction, and called the trial a ″classical communist political show trial.″
He said he plans to return to Yugoslavia, where he observed the prosecution’s arguments last month, and visit his father as often as possible.
Last Wednesday, the prosecutor demanded the death sentence for Artukovic, who oversaw police and concentration camps in wartime Croatia. A day later his defense attorneys demanded that charges against Artukovic be dropped because they had not been proven in court.
In her final summation May 7, Public Prosecutor Ivanka Pintar-Gajer said, ″In accordance with the proven facts regarding the committed criminal acts ... the sole required punishment which this court must hand down is the death sentence.″
″Mankind must believe in justice and therefore the punishment handed down by this court must represent a warning to all in order to prevent the recurrence of such crimes,″ said Mrs. Pintar-Gajer.
But defense lawyers Srdja Popovic and Zeljko Olujic said prosecution witnesses had not proved Artukovic’s guilt. Some gave ″unfounded and untrue″ statements, they contended in their summation.
Popovic also said some of the charges against Artukovic should be dismissed because they fell under a statute of limitations law and had expired.