The defence for the former prime minster and leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Ivo Sanader, requested at a pretrial hearing ahead of a retrial in the Hypo and INA-MOL cases on Monday that Zagreb County Court president Ivan Turudic as well as all the other judges of that court be exempted from the proceedings against their client.
Sanader’s lawyers would not give any statements for the press outside the Zagreb County Court building in downtown Zagreb.
However, the head of the anti-corruption office USKOK, Tamara Laptos, confirmed that the defence team had requested the exemption of Turudic, whose initial verdict against Sanader was recently quashed by the Constitutional Court, as well as of all the other Zagreb County Court judges.
The verdict that was quashed by the Constitutional Court refers to two cases, called the Hypo and INA-MOL cases, in which Sanader was found guilty of war profiteering and bribe taking respectively.
Laptos said the defence had asked for the judges’ exemption because in its ruling the Constitutional Court suggested considering a retrial before a new panel of judges as well as because they doubted Turudic’s impartiality.
Court hearings in the retrial for the Hypo and INA-MOL cases are expected to be held in September, and Sanader’s attorneys have said that hearings have already been scheduled against their client for September in another case in which Sanader is charged with corruption.
Court sources have said that it should become known this month if Sanader will stand trial together with Zsolt Hernadi, top executive of the Hungarian oil company MOL, who was to have been put on trial for bribing Sanader in February. However, the trial was postponed because the Supreme Court failed to return the case file that had ended up there after Hernadi’s defence complained that the extensive documentation in the case had not been translated into Hungarian and that despite the fact that he would be tried in absence, he had the right to receive the file in a language he understood.
By the end of this month the Supreme Court is also expected to rule on Sanader’s appeals against the verdict in the Fimi Media case, in which Sanader and the HDZ were found guilty of siphoning money from state institutions and state-owned companies into the party’s slush fund.
After the Constitutional Court’s ruling, Sanader, who until then had been serving a prison sentence of eight and a half years, was put back in investigative custody imposed on him in the Fimi Media case.
The court on August 26 turned down a motion by Sanader’s defence that he be released from custody, explaining that periods of time spent in investigative custody in more cases could not be added up.
His attorneys claim that the legal maximum period of three and a half years in investigative custody has expired in his case and have announced that they will file a complaint of unconstitutionality.