Yugoslavian Court Postpones the Execution of Artukovic

The execution in Yugoslavia of convicted war criminal Andrija Artukovic has been postponed indefinitely for reasons of poor health, according to the official Tanjug News Agency in Belgrade. It said a court in Zagreb, which last year sentenced him to death for crimes he committed in World War II, decided to postpone carrying out the sentence. It now seems likely that Artukovic will die a natural death in prison, according to legal sources in Yugoslavia.

Artukovic, 87, was extradited from the United States last year after more than 30 years, numerous legal proceedings and two formal extradition requests. He had lived in California since entering the U.S. in 1948 through the use of fraudulent documents, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations.

He had been accused by the Justice Department of the wartime persecution or murder of 700,000 Serbians, 40,000 Gypsies and 28,000 Jews while he was Interior Minister of the Nazi puppet state of Croatia. The mass killings and persecution was an official policy of the Croatian “Ustasha” fascist regime, set up in 1941 in collaboration with the Germans and Italians.

In sentencing Artukovic, Zagreb District Judge Milko Gajski said “This trial, for which we have all waited for such a long time, is a victory for justice. He (Artukovic) was the master of life and death for the whole people.” Artukovic, who was known as the “butcher of the Balkans,” denied any knowledge of the killings that took place in the Croatian camps.

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