Published in Nacional number 693, 2009-02-24

Autor: Eduard Šoštarić

Croatia halted by those with criminal records

Members of the marginal Slovenian People's Party (SSN) are attempting to collect 40,000 signatures in order to call a referendum to stop Croatia's entry into NATO; many of the individuals among them have been suspected of or charged with felonies

PARTY LEADER KNOWN TO POLICE Ladislav Troha, former officer of the Slovenian military, is one of the top guns in the SSN; in one interview, he even admitted to participating in the attempted assassination of Zmago JelincicPARTY LEADER KNOWN TO POLICE Ladislav Troha, former officer of the Slovenian military, is one of the top guns in the SSN; in one interview, he even admitted to participating in the attempted assassination of Zmago JelincicThe marginal non-parliamentary Slovenian People's Party (SSN), which numbers about 1500 members and a current bank balance of EUR 2.3, has become a major international problem overnight. Some of its members, including those in the party leadership, have been filling newspaper pages for years, with several even convicted for attempted murder and aiding in attempted murder. The party leader is 28 year old Lovro Skrinjaric, son to a Croatian father and Serbian mother, who last year with close friend and SSN member Andrej Sisko was acquitted on charges of holding Matjaz Kek, then coach of the Maribor Football Team and the Slovenian National Football Team, against his will.

Andrej Sisko is currently serving a 22-month prison sentence for attempted murder, while the third party leader, Ladislav Troha, a controversial officer of the Slovenian army, admitted in an interview in 2001 that he had participated in the attempted assassination against Zmago Jelincic, then Chairman of the Parliamentary Defence Board.

This group has launched an initiative to collect the necessary 40 thousand signatures by 26 March 2009 to call a referendum on the issue of Croatia's entry into NATO, has brought the enlargement of the Alliance into question, has threatened the strategic interests of the Alliance in the stabilization of Southeast Europe and has given the Slovenian administration led by Boris Pahor nothing but a big headache. Premier Pahor has been facing immeasurable pressures from his Western allies to resolve this new problem and to enable Croatia to be received into full membership no later than 3 April 2009.

We have paid for the initiative for the referendum out of our own pockets, as we have exactly EUR 2.3 in the party's account. We cannot turn out backs on those who have already signed the petition, just over 5000, and who have made it possible for Slovenia to refuse entering into a military alliance with the occupier. Perhaps that is not the right word, perhaps it sounds a bit harsh, but this is the only way that we can force the Slovenian government to resolve this 18-year old outstanding border issue with Croatia and to finally stand up to protect Slovenia's national interests. In recent years, the Slovenian political elite have only mentioned the border issue with Croatia at election time. We are not chauvinists and we do not hate Croatia, but this is just a good opportunity to resolve that which neither the Croatian nor Slovenian political elite have been able to resolve for so long,” commented SSN president Lovro Skrinjaric for Nacional's reporters at a meeting in Rogaska Slatina.

This group of marginal Slovenian politicians is led by Andrej Sisko, president of the Viola football fan club from Maribor, Lovro Skrinjaric, a law clerk, and Ladislav Troha, former officer of the Slovenian military, who was the first commander of the special army units within the Moris Brigade from Kocevska Reka. Troha was allegedly kidnapped and held captive for several months before being released, but it was never reliably discovered as to whether he had truly been captured, or whether this was staged.

This group has become a topic of discussion between the Slovenian administration and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Pahor has been so pressed into a corner, that at the last meeting with the SSN leadership, he even allowed Andrej Sisko to attend direct from prison, where he is serving a 22-month sentence for attempted murder, in the name of national interests and resolving the situation with the referendum. Sisko was defended in court by his friend Lovro Skrinjaric, who is currently president of the SSN.

Interestingly, Slovenian nationalist Zmago Jelincic also appeared before the court as a defendant in the same case, but he was acquitted, while Andrej Sisko and Matjaz Jeric were convicted. They were accused of throwing explosives into a vehicle in Brestinca near Maribor on 11 August 1992, with the intention of killing Milan Klement, and that Zmago Jelincic was an accessory to the crime. However, Jelincic's connection could not be proven and so he was acquitted. Sisko's defence was based on the claim that PRESSURES FROM THE WEST, US President Barack Obama wants to see Croatia in NATO this AprilPRESSURES FROM THE WEST, US President Barack Obama wants to see Croatia in NATO this Aprilthe device was not an explosive, but instead an improvised device intended only to frighten.

The SSN was formed in the 1990s as the product of a faction conflict within Zmago Jelincic's party. A portion of the membership left and formed the SSN.

We asked Skrinjaric to comment about Jelincic. “The Slovenian Parliament is a circus, and Zmago Jelincic is a clown in that circus. He is full of rhetoric, a populist, but when something concrete needs to be done, he retreats. He's very cosy in the parliament, on their payroll, and it is clear that he does not have a lot of space to manoeuvre. He stated that he supports the initiative for the referendum, but is doing nothing concrete to make this referendum happen, he is not organizing anything or collecting any signatures.”

We also asked Skrinjaric about what really happened at the last meeting with Premier Pahor, and what Pahor really meant when he commented that progress had been made. “Pahor is a very convincing speaker, and he is placable, he did not act as though we were something insignificant. We placed forth our arguments, but did not find a solution. It was clear to us that Pahor is in a very tough position before NATO, and we agreed that we would announce something to that effect after the meeting, that progress had been made,” responded Skrinjaric.

Also present at the meeting was controversial former military officer Ladislav Troha. We met with him last weekend in Vrhnika. Troha became well known in 1998 when he decided to stage a very unusual protest. Throughout the entire summer, he stood next to the flagpole opposite the entrance of the Slovenian Parliament, playing the guitar and explaining to passersby that the Slovenian army had neither protective masks nor engineering tools, that they were poorly trained, that their arms had been smuggled and the like. For that reason, he was discharged from active military service.

However, Troha was quickly reinstated in the Defence Ministry, in the Protection and Rescue Department. That is, until 19 January 2001, when he “disappeared” for five months, an only ten days after he gave an interview in which he made serious allegations against Janez Jansa and admitted to participating in covering up the attempted assassination of Zmago Jelincic.

Troha told Nacional's reporter that he frequently spends his summers on the Croatian island of Ciovo, and that he has absolutely nothing against Croatia, but that he has a great deal against the Slovenian government which has proven to be very poor at protecting Slovenia's national interests. “For us, the only acceptable solution is the state of the borders as of 25 June 1991. That is what is stated in the Slovenian Constitution, as the Constitution clearly mentions the borders between the then republics. Were we able to resolve this border issue, Croatia and Slovenia could truly work with synergy to achieve other goals, particularly in the economy and tourism. For us, international arbitration at court is unacceptable, as the court will consider the current state of affairs, and Croatia has an advantage there,” commented Troha.

When asked whether he expects his party will collect the necessary number of signatures for the referendum, Troha responded that this will depend on the party's opportunities to appear in the Slovenian public and the media. The way things stand now, Troha claims, it is evident that the media space has been blocked, that the media is attempted to incriminate the party leadership in everyway possible and that trend will likely continue.

The former commander of the elite military brigade Moris in the early 1990s shook up the state administration in 2001, when he stated that he had participated in planting a bomb under the automobile of Zmago Jelincic in 1993, at the request of then Defence Minister Janez Jansa. As Ljubljana journalist Igor Mekina wrote in 2001, Troha had admitted to forging guard books at the request of his superiors, so as to secure an alibi for those planting the bomb. Immediately after the attempted attack, the Slovenian police found traces that lead them to the bomber. However, there were no witnesses that could associate the members of the military unit and Jansa with Jelincic's Volvo. That is, until Troha's memory was refreshed and he said that at noon on 13 April 1993, his superior Anton Krkovic, told him that they had a problem, as the night before a bomb had exploded under Jelincic's Volvo, parked in the city centre. A night watchman from a nearby company claimed to have seen a younger man walking back and forth in front of the building, and that caught his attention, as it was late at night. He noticed that the man got into a Fiat Uno with Zagreb registration plates, while quickly led detectives to Robert Suhadolnik, a HUMILIATION FOR THE PREMIER Slovenian Premier Borut Pahor made an urgent trip to Maribor to meet with the leaders of the miniature party SSN; in the photo with SSN president Lovro SkrinjaricHUMILIATION FOR THE PREMIER Slovenian Premier Borut Pahor made an urgent trip to Maribor to meet with the leaders of the miniature party SSN; in the photo with SSN president Lovro Skrinjaricmember of the Moris special brigade, who had exactly that kind of vehicle.

Troha testified that another two members of Moris had participated in the attack. Crime police would have closed in on the suspects back in 1993, had Major Troha not received an invitation for a meeting at the Defence Ministry in Ljubljana. “What's done is done. Minister Jansa is asking that we salvage this thing,” was the warning his commander Anton Krkovic gave him. Troha realied that Minister Jansa would see to it that Police Minister Ivo Bizjak would not request a detailed investigation.

When explicitly asked, Krkovic then told Troha that the attack had been authorized as a tactic to scare Jelincic. At the time, Jelincic was leader of the parliamentary Defense Board, which is why Jansa had it out for him as a dangerous political opponent. Therefore, Troha believed, as Defense Minister, Janez Jansa was the direct perpetrator of the entire attack. Ultimatly, Troha caved into pressures from his superiors and secured an alibi for the accused Suhadolnik, by forging the guard duty books and saying that at the time of the attack he had been on guard duty. The investigation stopped, and the police were left with no other option that to file charges against „unknown perpetrators“. After the intervju in which he revealed this compromising information on the Slovenian politicians, Troha's brother reported him missing on 18 January 2001. The police and Slovenian media claimed that Troha had gone into hiding after the intervju, until the reactions could die down. He was found five months later, near Vrhnika, lying on the road with hands and feet bound. To this date, nothing has been learned about this abduction, nor has it been determined whether he was really abducted, or whether this was staged.

Troha was also involved in the case that caused Jansa to lose his position as defense minister. A scandal called Depala vas broke out when soldiers under Troha in the Moris brigade staged an ambush on the Ljubljana – Maribor highway, under the excuse of an investigation of the release of confidential military documents, and stopped the car of Tone Smolnikar. They dragged him out of the window, took him in for questioning, and gave him phony documents. He was badly beaten and ended up in hospital, and Jansa was forced to resign over the case. In the meantime, the Moris brigade was dissolved, and the case simply muffled thanks to the help of political sympathizers in key functions in the prosecutor's office.

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