Killers on the Loose: Croatia Arrests Communist Spy Chief in 1983 Murder Case

By:  William F. Jasper
Killers on the Loose: Croatia Arrests Communist Spy Chief in 1983 Murder Case

Communist veterans in Croatia — as throughout much of Eastern Europe — continue to rule the newest member of the European Union, belying the claims that communism has collapsed and died. 

Croatian officials, responding to pressure from Germany and the European Union, ordered the arrest, on January 1, of Josip Perkovic (shown in photo), the former head of the Croatian branch of the Communist Yugoslavia’s secret police. The 68-year-old Perkovic is accused of masterminding the 1983 assassination of Croatian nationalist Stjepan Djurekovic, in the Bavarian town of Wolfrathausen near Munich, Germany. Djurekovic was one of many Yugoslavian emigrants around the world who were hunted down and murdered by the Yugoslav State Security Service (UDBA), both during the reign of Josip Broz Tito (1943-1980) and after.

The Republic of Croatia, which achieved sovereign status following its 1991 War for Independence from Yugoslavia, became the 28th member state of the European Union on July 1, 2013. However, the matter of Perkovic and other UDBA criminals has been a sticking point from the beginning of Croatia’s application for accession to the EU. On June 28, three days before it was to begin its EU membership, the Croatian Parliament, dominated by “former” communists and their allies, rushed to pass a law stipulating that EU arrest/extradition warrants would not be applicable to crimes committed before August 7, 2002. Critics dubbed the new law “Lex Perkovic,” and rightfully decried it as a blatant effort to protect infamous criminals responsible for some of the worst offences of the former regime. Facing legal action from the EU, as well as the threat of loss of EU funds, the Croatian government amended the law to remove the time limitation. In addition to Perkovic, Croatian authorities executed arrest warrants on January 1 for former UDBA chief Zdravko Mustac and eight others. Perkovic is fighting his extradition to Germany, and a Croatian court may decide the issue as early as this week. It is likely the court may rule that Perkovic cannot be extradited due to the statute of limitations.

Dr. John R. Schindler, professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, has written extensively on the Balkans and the Yugoslavia UDBA. He is the the author of Agents Provocateurs: Terrorism, Espionage, and the Secret Struggle for Yugoslavia, 1945-1990.

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Photo of Josip Perkovic: AP Images

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