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Croatia ex-PM drops extradition appeal, faces corruption charges

Former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader on Monday dropped his appeal of a Zagreb extradition request, thereby compelling him to face corruption charges in Croatia. Sanader's lawyers said that the former prime minister dropped the appeal after media speculation suggesting the appeal process could tarnish Croatian accession [DW report] to the European Union (EU) [official website]. Sanader is currently being held in Austria. The Salzburg Provincial Court ruled [JURIST report] in May that Sanader's extradition of could proceed. Sanader was arrested by Austrian officials [JURIST report] in December on charges of abuse of power, corruption and fraud for taking nearly €4 million from public firms and state institutions [Croatian Times report]. Counsel for Sanader announced that they would immediately appeal [DW report] the ruling to the High Provincial Court in Linz and argued that it would be impossible for Sanader to receive a fair trial in Croatia. Croatian President Ivo Josipovic [official website] said that Sanader would be entitled to a fair trial.

Croatian officials have been under serious pressure to the tackle the issue of corruption in order to gain accession [EU materials] to the EU by 2012. On the same day Sanader was arrested, former interior ministry official Tomislav Mercep was arrested [JURIST report] on charges of committing war crimes. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF; press release] calling for the prosecution of individuals responsible for war crimes the day before Mercep's arrest. In November, a Croatian court sentenced [JURIST report] six men to 15 to 40 years in prison for their roles in the killing of a Croatian journalist in 2008. In 2008, AI called on the EU to use Croatia's status as a candidate country to ensure that the Croatian government actively investigates and prosecutes [JURIST report] suspected war criminals. AI criticized the slow pace of war crimes investigations, and noted that Croatian courts have mostly focused on crimes allegedly committed by ethnic Serbs even though Croats have also been accused of ethnic-based war crimes. In March 2005, the EU suspended entry talks [JURIST report] on the grounds that Croatia was failing to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website; JURIST news archive] investigating war crimes in the area. The entry talks were resumed in October of that year after the ICTY declared that Croatia was fully cooperating [JURIST report].

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