Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Death in Nazorova 57

Yesterday around 12:30 there was a fire in the house at Nazorova Street in Zagreb. Fire started in the room of 82-year old Marija Eker-Manolić (Marija Eker-Manolic), owner of the house. Despite her grandson's attempts to rescue her from the inferno, she died quickly afterwards (it is unclear whether from 3rd degree burns or carbon-monoxide poisoining). The cause of fire was apparently unextinguished cigarette; Ms. Eker-Manolić, despite her age and fact that she couldn't move without somebody else's assistance, kept her chain-smoking habit.

This tragedy quickly became top news in Croatia, because the victim was the wife of Josip Manolić (Josip Manolic), man who used to be the second most powerful man in Tudjman's Croatia and one of the closest associates of late Croatian President. Manolić, WW2 Partisan and former Colonel in Tito's secret police, briefly served as prime minister and later became overall chief of various intelligence and security agencies that had multiplied under Tudjman's rule. Never far from public spotlight, Manolić was also known as a champion of the moderate faction within Tudjman's HDZ party. His faction, however, began to lose influence to the extreme right-wingers led by defence minister Gojko Šušak (Gojko Susak) and in 1994 Manolić, just like current president Mesić (Mesic) was marginalised within HDZ. His defection from HDZ and unsuccessful attempt to deprive Tudjman of parliamentary majorities branded him as the ultimate traitor within ranks of Tudjmanist true-believers.

However, the real reason why Manolić is hated by Croatian right-wingers with such passion could be found in his secret police's role of uncovering details about Croatian army and police atrocities towards local Serbs during 1991-95 war. Manolić collected this information, but never did anything officially about it. There is suspicion, however, that he had been leaking some of those information to independent media in 1990 (using Mesić as his conduit) and later co-operated with ICTY. Defendants in Norac trial often mentioned Manolić as the main "fabricator" of the evidence against them.

In most likelihood the death in Nazorova 57 is nothing more than tragic accident. Yet, it is almost certain that conspiracy theories are going to pop up and that some people would connect this tragedy with some sort of payback for Manolić's role in putting "Croatian heroes" behind bars.


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