On Friday, the County Court in Zagreb annulled the conviction of Catholic archbishop and Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, found guilty by the Court in 1946 for treason and support of the Nazi-puppet Ustasha regime. In 1946, Stepinac was found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Stepinac was also found guilty of aiding the Ustasha regime of the Nazi-puppet state Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in spreading “enemy propaganda”, and forcing Orthodox Serbs to be baptized as Catholic.
However, after Stepinac’s nephew filed a request to review the 70-year old verdict on July 15 – the panel of judges at Zagreb County Court, on Friday, annulled the verdict of the 1946 Communist-era court, arguing that Stepinac hadn’t had a fair trial.
The Court’s decision was explained by Judge Ivan Tudurić. He commented on the previous verdict, saying: “The goal (of the verdict) was revenge against Stepinac.”
The state attorney’s office announced it will not appeal the Court’s decision.
The late Pope John Paul II, during his visit to Croatia in 1998, beatified Alojzije Stepinac. In Croatia, many Catholics believe that Stepinac was wrongfully convicted, representing him as a hero who fought against the Communists. An initiative to proclaim Stepinac as a saint has many followers in Croatia.
However, most historians agree that Stepinac was close to the Ustasha regime of the Independent State of Croatia since the establishment of the Nazi-puppet state. Stepinac did make a few speeches against the genocidal policies of the NDH, which targeted Jews, Serbs and Roma.
The Independent State of Croatia committed mass killings of Serbs, Jews, and Roma, and organized one of the most infamous concentration camps – Jasenovac.
As expected, the Court’s decision sparked harsh criticism and outrage in neighboring Serbia.
Based in Bosnia and Herzegovina. BA in political science. Columnist.