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Austria extradites Croatia ex-PM to face corruption charges

An Austrian court approved the extradition Monday of former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader back to Croatia to face corruption charges. The court completed the paperwork allowing Sanader to be extradited [Telegraph report] back to Croatia. He will face charges of abuse of power, corruption and fraud for taking nearly €4 million from public firms and state institutions. Sanader was being held in Austria where he was arrested [JURIST report] last December pursuant to a warrant issued by Croatia. Sanader had begun an appeal of his extradition arguing that it would be impossible to receive a fair trial in Croatia, but he dropped it after media speculation [JURIST report] suggested the appeal process could harm Croatia's accession to the EU.

Last month, the European Council [official website] agreed to grant Croatia [EC materials] EU membership following six years of accession negotiations. The decision calls for negotiations to close by the end of the month and the accession treaty to be signed by year's end, allowing for the country to become the 28th member of the EU on July 1, 2013. In the interim, EU leaders strongly encouraged Croatia to continue pursuing crucial reform initiatives. 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.

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