A Croatian court has indicted a former Serb paramilitary commander, who became a golf instructor in Australia, for for torturing and killing Croatian soldiers and civilians during Zagreb’s 1991-95 war of independence.
The indictment comes nearly six months after Dragan Vasiljkovic, known as Daniel Snedden in Australia, lost a nine-year battle to block his extradition to Croatia from Australia, which took place in July.
He is charged with violating the Geneva Convention by torturing and killing captive Croatian soldiers and police in the Serb rebel stronghold of Knin in June and July, 1991 and in Bruska in February, 1993, the county prosecutor’s office in the coastal city of Split said in a statement on Friday.
Vasiljkovic is also accused of drawing up a plan to attack the police station in Glina and neighbouring villages in July, 1991.
“During the attack, civilian buildings were damaged or destroyed, the population was forced to flee, property was looted and civilians were killed or wounded, including a foreign journalist,” the prosecuter’s statement said.
Vasiljkovic, who holds dual Serbian and Australian citizenship, was arrested in Australia in 2006 on a warrant issued in Croatia.
At the time, he worked as a golf instructor in Perth.
His lawyer Sladjana Cankovic told SBS Radio’s Croatian program the trial is expected to get underway in coming months.
“After receiving the indictment [on January 8] we have eight days to lodge an appeal,” Ms Cankovic said.
“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 [in support of or against a trial going ahead]. We estimate the trial could begin in the spring.”
Ms Cankovic said an appeal to have Vasiljkovic 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.
“Dragan Vasiljkovic has been in prison for ten years and doesn’t have the financial means to pay for his (legal) defence,” Ms Cankovic said.
“He has applied to the Australian government, which approved assistance to finance his defence for a period of six months.”
Court authorities have refused his offer to give up his passport and post bail to the value of around $1 million.
Croatia declared independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1991, but its Serb minority, backed by Belgrade, rebelled and seized a third of the country by force.
Croatia crushed the rebellion in 1995.
It became a member of the European Union in 2013.