Croatia: Murder of publisher shocks government

(AKI) – The car bomb murder of controversial publishing magnate, Ivo Pukanic, has shocked Croatians and prompted President Stipe Mesic on Friday to call an urgent meeting of the national security council. Forty-seven-old Pukanic was killed Thursday evening in the centre of the capital, Zagreb, when his car was blown up in front of the building of his weekly investigative newspaper Nacional.

Pukanic’s marketing director Niko Franic was also killed in the attack.

It was the second high profile murder this month and made front page news on in all newspapers in Croatia and the Balkans region. Ivana Hodak, daughter of a prominent Zagreb lawyer, was shot dead on 6 October, the victim of a gang-style murder in front of her apartment in the centre of Zagreb.

Europe's top human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe on Friday condemned the killingss.

"These murders are not only a threat to public security but also a threat to the freedom of the media and the freedom of expression in Croatia," Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis said in a statement.

He vowed the watchdog would give its "full support" to bringing the perpetrators of the murders to justice and stamping out organised crime in Croatia.

Davis echoed earlier comments from Croatia's President Stjepan Mesic. “With tonight’s murder of journalist and publisher Ivo Pukanic and Nacional marketing director Niko Franic terrorism has entered the streets of the capital of the Republic of Croatia,” Mesic said on Thursday.

“The criminal underworld has confronted the state with a challenge unseen before,” Mesic added.

“Every citizen of Croatia now rightly asks - who is next?” Mesic said. "The state must respond to terror immediately, energetically and with all means at their disposal."

“We will not allow Croatia to become another Beirut,” said Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.

“If we have hesitated until now, there is no more time for waiting,” Sanader added, pledging that the government would wage an all-out battle against the mob.

Pukanic has been known as a controversial figure, with close ties to the underworld and to politicians. Zagreb media has reported he was a regular guest at all Mesic’s receptions.

Nacional was known for uncovering cigarette smuggling schemes involving, among others, a Swiss-based Serbian tycoon Stanko Subotic Cane and Montenegro's president Milo Djukanovic.

Pukanic won a national press award in 2001, and another award in 2004 for his interview with the then-fugitive general Ante Gotovina, who is currently on trial for war crimes against Serb civilians during Croatia’s 1991-1995 war of secession from the former Yugoslavia.


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