The lawyer for the first Australian citizen to be extradited overseas over war crimes allegations say his trial is expected to begin within months.
Australia surrendered Dragan Vasiljkovic – as he will be known in his trial – to Croatia last year.
Daniel Snedden, as he’s known in Australia, has consistently denied the allegations but nearly a decade of appeals in Australian courts failed to prevent his extradition.
Kristina Kukolja reports.
Daniel Snedden’s legal team says it’s examining the charges against the 61-year-old, detailed in a formal indictment issued by Croatian prosecutors on January 8.
The crimes Mr Snedden is alleged to have committed or commanded, which include the torture of prisoners of war and killing of civilians, relate to a period between 1991-1993 in the Croatian war.
At the time Mr Snedden, who holds dual Australian-Serbian citizenship, was the commander of Serb paramilitary unit and was known as ‘Captain Dragan’.
His lawyer Sladjana Cankovic told SBS Radio’s Croatian program the trial is expected to get underway in coming months.
(Translated)”After receiving the indictment we have eight days to lodge an appeal. Within a further 15 days the court will decide whether to confirm the indictment. After the indictment has been confirmed a preliminary hearing will be set at which the defence and prosecution will present their evidence. We estimate the trial could begin in the spring.”
Daniel Snedden has been in pre-trial detention since Croatia took custody of him just under six months ago.
His offer to give up his passport and post bail to the value of around $1 million has been refused by court authorities.
Sladjana Cankovic says an appeal to have Mr Snedden released to prepare his defence will be lodged with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, on account of the years he spent in extradition detention in Australia.
She says the Australian government has agreed to help with the legal costs of Mr Snedden’s defence, whom she refers to as Dragan Vasiljkovic.
(Translated)”Dragan Vasiljkovic has been in prison for ten years and doesn’t have the financial means to pay for his defence. He has applied to the Australian government, which approved assistance to finance his defence for a period of six months.”
In a statement to SBS, the federal Attorney General’s Department says all applications for legal financial assistance are treated as confidential.
The Department administers what is known as a Serious Overseas Criminal Matters scheme, making funds available for some legal expenses incurred outside Australia.
To be potentially eligible, an accused person must be facing a possible term of imprisonment of at least 20 years, life imprisonment or the death penalty.
They must have have an ongoing connection with Australia and not be able to pay their own legal costs without facing serious financial hardship.
The Department says legal financial assistance is akin to legal aid and is provided to help ensure the applicant receives a fair trial.
The latest developments come amid claims new evidence has emerged purporting to show Mr Snedden taking responsibility for a deadly military operation in 1991 in which civilians were killed.
Video footage in which Mr Snedden apparently admits to commanding an attack on the Croatian town of Glina was reportedly given to prosecutors by the widow of a German journalist killed by Serb forces.
The attack is at the centre of one of three war crimes allegations set out in Croatia’s request to Australia for Mr Snedden’s extradition.
Christiane Schlotzer’s husband, Egon Scotland, was reporting on the former Yugoslav conflict in the early 1990s.
Ms Schlotzer has told the ABC the footage is incriminating.
“Later I found about a tape about that was made at a press conference one day after my husband died where Dragan was talking about the whole operation in Glina and around Glina, and that he was commanding the operations.”