Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Short Arm of Justice

Today Split building called Palace of Justice witnessed another historic event. For the first time since Croatian independence a person was sentenced to more than 20 years of prison.

The story started on March 3rd 2002 when Andjela Bešlić (Andjela Beslic), 16-year old high school student, failed to return from a rock concert in nearby Sinj.On April 5th 2002, a neighbour found her decomposed body a hundred metres away from her house. Four days later Ivan Bulj, manager of local radio station, suddenly appeared in police station and shocked everyone by confessing rape and murder.

Later it was discovered that Bulj's confession – inadmissible due to legal technicalities – had little to do with sudden outburst of guilt or conscience. Unsatisfied with the police, which didn't show much interest in locating his missing daughter, war veteran Ivan Bešlić (Ivan Beslic) has called few friends and begun a investigation of his own. They failed to locate Andjela's body but they gathered enough information to point towards Ivan Bulj as a man who had something to do with her disappearance. And Bulj apparently became aware of that the people who conduct non-regular police work could also resort to non-regular sort of justice.

Despite inadmisssibility of his confession, he was charged and indicted. However, Bešlić continued crusade for justice, claiming that the police investigation was hampered by political pressure. According to rumours, Ivan Bulj was only one of the perpetrators and, being a member of small but locally influential right-wing political party, connected with a cabal of local bigwigs who allegedly had rapes of local teenagers as their favourite pasttime. Ivan Bulj quickly gave up the name of Pavao Bulj, his distant cousin with a criminal record. Pavao Bulj was also arrested, charged and indicted.

Today, the trial ended. Ivan Bulj was convicted for murder. Although everyone had expected maximum sentence of 40 years, Split judges again showed their traditional leniency towards people who murder teenage girls. Using lack of forensic evidence for rape, they convicted Bulj only for murder and gave him 27 years. Pavao Bulj was cleared of all charges, except drug posession, which he had already served while being in detention.

27 years might look too little to Andjela Bešlić's father, Croatian public and any decent human being, but it is the harshest prison sentence ever passed in Split County Court since WW2.

And it is unlikely that such record is going to broken any time soon. Not because such crimes won't occur in future, but because it is unlikely that their victims and their loved ones will show enough perseverance to fight the establishment as Ivan Bešlić did.


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