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Justice

Croatia arrests former spy over decades-old murder in Germany

Croatian police have arrested a suspect wanted in Germany over a murder committed three decades ago. The extradition case had caused friction when the former Yugoslav republic entered the EU six months ago.

Croatia's public news agency Hina reported on Wednesday that Zagreb County Court had ordered the arrest of 68-year-old Josip Perkovic, who is wanted in Germany for his alleged role in the 1983 murder of a Yugoslav citizen in Bavaria.

The report said that Perkovic, a former Yugoslav secret service agent, was among 10 people who had been arrested on Wednesday, as an amendment to Croatia's extradition legislation came into force.

"It is now a matter for the police and the judiciary. The new law is applied equally to everyone," President Ivo Josipovic said.

Perkovic's lawyer, Anto Nobilo, told HRT public television that his client was being held in police custody pending a decision by a Zagreb court on whether or not he should be extradited to Germany. He also said that Perkovic intended to fight any decision to extradite him.

Zagreb-Brussels row

The Perkovic case sparked a row between the European Union and its new member state when, just days before Croatia joined the bloc on July 1, it changed its law on the implementation of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which regulates extradition between EU countries. The amendment made it impossible for Croatia to extradite its citizens wanted for alleged crimes committed prior to August 2002.

Although the change is widely viewed as having stemmed from the Perkovic case, Croatian authorities have denied this, saying the move was meant to protect veterans of the country's 1991-95 war of independence from Yugoslavia.

Under the threat of losing EU funding, Croatia relented last September, agreeing to amend the law to remove the restriction. This took effect on January 1, 2014.

After working for Yugoslavia's UDBA secret service, Perkovic went on to become the head of Croatia's intelligence service after the republic gained its independence from the former communist state.

Among the others arrested on Wednesday was a former Yugoslav intelligence chief, Zdravko Mustac.

pfd/tj (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

DW.DE