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Cablegate: Indicted Former Chief of General Staff Janko Bobetko Buried

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000991

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM HR ICTY
SUBJECT: INDICTED FORMER CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF JANKO BOBETKO BURIED


1. SUMMARY: INDICTED GENERAL JANKO BOBETKO WAS BURIED ON
MAY 2. WHILE OPPOSITION LEADERS ATTENDED THE FUNERAL,
PRESIDENT MESIC DID NOT, AND PM RACAN AND SPEAKER TOMCIC
ONLY PAID THEIR TRIBUTE AT A SEPARATE CEREMONY. IN AN
INFLAMMATORY SPEECH AT THE FUNERAL, RETIRED GENERAL IVAN
BASARAC CRITICIZED BOBETKO'S INDICTMENT BY THE ICTY, SAYING
THERE WAS NO FREEDOM IN CROATIA AS LONG AS INDICTED
GENERALS ARE NOT FREE. MOST MEDIA CRITICIZED BASARIC'S
TURNING THE FUNERAL INTO A POLITICAL RALLY. SOME ARGUED
THAT PART OF THE PUBLIC WOULD OBJECT TO THE GOVERNMENT'S
LOW PROFILE AT BOBETKO'S FUNERAL, WHILE THE INTERNATIONAL
COMMUNITY WOULD DISAPPROVE OF ITS TAKING ANY PART AT ALL.
END SUMMARY.


2. RETIRED GENERAL JANKO BOBETKO, FORMER CROATIAN CHIEF OF
THE GENERAL STAFF, WHO WAS ALSO INDICTED FOR WAR CRIMES BY
THE ICTY, WAS BURIED ON MAY 2 IN HIS NATIVE TOWN OF SISAK.
THE PRESS ESTIMATED THAT ANYWHERE BETWEEN 10 AND 20
THOUSAND PEOPLE GATHERED AT HIS FUNERAL, MANY OF WHOM HAD
ARRIVED FROM THE SOUTHERN COASTAL REGION OF DALMATIA.
WHILE MOST OPPOSITION LEADERS, INCLUDING HDZ PRESIDENT IVO
SANADER, ATTENDED THE FUNERAL, THE GOVERNMENT WAS
REPRESENTED ONLY SYMBOLICALLY BY ONE MINISTER (SDP) AND ONE
MP (HSS) WHO WERE THERE IN THEIR PARTY AND PRIVATE
CAPACITIES. PRESIDENT STIPE MESIC SENT HIS AIDE-DE-CAMP TO
REPRESENT HIM AT BOBETKO'S FUNERAL AND EXCUSED HIMSELF,
CITING PRIOR ENGAGEMENTS. PRIME MINISTER IVICA RACAN AND
PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ZLATKO TOMCIC ATTENDED A MEMORIAL
SERVICE IN ZAGREB, BUT DID NOT GO TO SISAK FOR THE FUNERAL
ITSELF.

3. AS EXPECTED, BOBETKO'S FUNERAL TURNED INTO A POLITICAL
EVENT; IN A PARAPHRASE OF THE GENERAL'S MEMOIRS, A LOCAL
COLUMNIST DESCRIBED THE FUNERAL AS BOBETKO'S "LAST,
DECISIVE BATTLE WITH THE HAGUE TRIBUNAL." RETIRED GENERAL
BASARAC MADE AN INFLAMMATORY SPEECH IN WHICH HE SAID THERE
WAS "NO FREEDOM IN CROATIA AS LONG AS GENERALS NORAC,
GOTOVINA AND ADEMI ARE NOT FREE," DISMISSING THE INDICTMENT
AGAINST BOBETKO AS BASELESS. WHILE BASARAC DREW A PARALLEL
BETWEEN THE PROSECUTION OF BOBETKO AND THE "PERSECUTION OF
CHRIST," ONE BANNER AT THE FUNERAL READ: "HOLY TRINITY:
FRANJO, JANKO AND GOJKO," IN REFERENCE TO LATE PRESIDENT
TUDJMAN, BOBETKO AND LATE MINISTER OF DEFENSE SUSAK.
SIMILARLY, HDZ PRESIDENT IVO SANADER DESCRIBED BOBETKO AS A
"LEGEND OF THE CROATIAN STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM AND
INDEPENDENCE, WHOSE NOBLE DEED WAS WITHOUT A SINGLE STAIN."
SHORTLY BEFORE HE DIED, BOBETKO SAID HE WANTED CONVICTED
WAR CRIMINAL GENERAL MIRKO NORAC TO BE RELEASED FROM JAIL
TO CARRY THE CROSS AT THE FUNERAL. AUTHORITIES DEMURRED.

4. MOST MEDIA CRITICIZED THE POLITICIZATION OF BOBETKO'S
FUNERAL, ESPECIALLY BASARAC'S SPEECH. COMMENTATORS
CRITICIZED THE FACT THAT THE FUNERAL WAS DESIGNED AND USED
AS A FORUM FOR A POLITICAL SHOWDOWN WITH THE GOVERNMENT.
SOME IN THE MEDIA NOTED, HOWEVER, THAT THE STATE LEADERSHIP
WAS IN A NO-WIN SITUATION. THE FACT THAT THE PRESIDENT AND
THE PRIME MINISTER FAILED TO ATTEND THE FUNERAL WILL BE
USED BY CROATIA'S NATIONALIST RIGHT-WING TO SKEWER THE
RULING COALITION. THE FACT THAT THEY PARTICIPATED AT ALL
-- IN THIS CASE BY THE PRIME MINISTER DISPATCHING A MEMBER
OF PARLIAMENT AND OF THE GOVERNMENT -- MAY DRAW CRITICISM
FROM THE HAGUE AND OTHERS IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.

ROSSIN

NNNN

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