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Croatia Drops Case Vs. WWII Figure

February 1, 1999

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ Croatia halted an investigation Monday of a Croat woman suspected of torturing inmates in the country’s most notorious World War II detention camp.

The state attorney’s office said it decided to stop further criminal proceedings against Esperanza Nada Sakic, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prove she had committed the crimes.

Mrs. Sakic, 76, whose husband, Dinko Sakic, 76, is awaiting trial on war crimes charges, was extradited from Argentina in November. She was suspected of committing crimes against humanity and of breaching one section of international law _ war crimes against civilians.

A warrant issued in July accused her of ``carrying out torture, inhuman treatment of civilians, as well as terror, intimidation and collective punishment of civilians,″ during her tenure as guard in the women’s block of the Jasenovac prison camp from 1942 to 1945.

Tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and anti-fascist Croats were killed at Jasenovac, the most notorious of more than 20 concentration camps run by Croatia’s World War II Nazi puppet state. Women were held at the Stara Gradiska camp, a part of the Jasenovac complex.

Her husband, who was indicted in mid-December, is accused of ordering, witnessing and participating in the war crimes committed in the Jasenovac camp, which he commanded between 1942 and 1944. His trial is expected in the coming weeks.

After three months and 26 witnesses, the state attorney’s office reportedly could not find a single inmate who could confirm the allegations against Mrs. Sakic.

The office added that the inquiry also could not prove that Mrs. Sakic, although a member of the Ustashe _ the equivalent of German SS troopers _ held any position of authority after arriving at the camp as a 16-year-old.

According to Mrs. Sakic’s lawyer, Branko Seric, the decision had been expected.

``Not a single witness, neither directly or indirectly, could (link) Nada Sakic with the crimes she was accused of,″ Seric said.

Mrs. Sakic and her husband fled Croatia in 1945, when Nazi rule was crushed. Both had lived in the Argentine resort of Santa Teresita since arriving in 1947.

In April, Dinko Sakic outraged Holocaust survivors by telling Argentine television that Jasenovac victims died of disease and natural causes.

Many critics of Croatia feared that the legal system, which is under the thumb of authoritarian President Franjo Tudjman, would be lenient toward the Sakics.

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