Knights and Criminals
Few weeks ago Croatian streets began to get covered with posters featuring General Mirko Norac and words "GUILTY… for defending Croatia". Many saw those posters as the first major expression of Croatian right wingers' displeasure with Ivo Sanader's liberal policies – especially those that current prime minister branded as treacherous while in opposition.
Croatian Supreme Court, on the other hand, wasn't impressed. Norac, and the rest of his wartime comrades from Gospić (Gospic), had their sentences upheld. Norac, who had received 12 year prison sentence for the murder of Serb civilians in Gospić 1991, is now officially a criminal.
That would give great problems to his countrymen from the city of Sinj and neighbouring areas. For them Norac was and still is an undisputed war hero and embodiment of chivalry. Alka Knights Society, which runs Alka of Sinj - prestigious jousting tournament– is, by its own charter forced to erase Norac from its membership. This is going to be very hard, because Norac is Duke of Alka, the most prestigious title anyone from Sinj can have. To have someone like Norac behind bars and behind bars for the most despicable act imaginable is unbearable disgrace for Alka Knights and Sinj. It's hardly surprising that many in Sinj, even people from the opposing ends of political spectrum, simply refused to believe that their favourite son could ever be found guilty.
12 years of prison aren't the only trouble for Norac. He is still being investigated for the massacre of Serb civilians in Medak Pocket 1993. ICTY, which handles the investigation, hinted that the prosecution and trial could be transferred to Croatian authorities, which is something that Vesna Škare-Ožbolt (Vesna Skare-Ozbolt), current justice minister, lobbies for. But the latest speculations tell that Carla del Ponte and ICTY bigwigs, despite 12 year sentence, still don't have complete trust in independence and impartiality of Croatian judiciary. The trial is now supposed to be held in some European country instead.
Apart from people in Sinj and more extreme right-wingers, few Croatians tend to care that much for Norac. That represents stark contrast to the events in early 2001 where the mere hints about Norac's arrest or indictment resulted in 150,000 people on the streets of Split and "spontaneous" roadblocks all over the strategic points in the country.