AIM: start



TUE, 07 AUG 2001 00:48:01 GMT

A Man who Divided the People of Krajina

The Beginning of Fikret Abdic's Trial in Karlovac

Perhaps "Babo" (Fikret Abdic's nickname) from Kladusa will succeed in defending himself from accusations that he had committed war crimes, but he can never erase the fact that his war allies are now the clients of the Hague Tribunal.

AIM, Sarajevo, July 31, 2001

Fikret Abdic was destined to be a hero of two great court trials. In both cases - at one time the "Agrocommerce" affair and the latest one taking place in Karlovac on the approval of the Hague Tribunal, in which he is defending himself from accusations of having committed war crimes under the flag of autonomy in 1993-1995 period - the public was divided into those who glorify him passionately and those who vehemently disapprove of him. The situation in the Bihac region, known as the Cazin Krajina, which includes the area of Velika Kladusa, Cazin, Bosanska Krupa, Bihac and now also Buzim, is the best reflection of this situation: at the very mention of the name of the former member of the B&H Presidency some people are ready to roll out the red carpet, while others would gladly pull out their knives.

Both have every reason for such emotions. Fikret Abdic has become a legend in his lifetime by turning an agricultural cooperative into a modern food combine "Agrocommerce", which before the 1987 scandal broke, employed over 13 thousand workers. "Agrocommerce" had transformed the entire region, which was barely surviving for years in a quagmire of poverty. Back in late sixties, Velika Kladusa had barely fifty meters of asphalt road, one TV set kept under lock and key in the community centre and the endemic syphilis and infectious hepatitis were raging across this over-populated area. "Agrocommerce" paved with asphalt the streets in the villages around Velika Kladusa and Cazin, brought electricity and water supply system and poultry farms and factories kept cropping up all around. Once markedly poor villages, whose inhabitants survived by earning their living as hired labourers all over Croatia and Slovenia, skipped the century of backwardness and joined civilisation overnight. I remember an old man saying, "There is now no house without two salaries" at the time when the entire Bosnia celebrated the success of this firm and its creator.

People whom Fikret Abdic literally fed did not care whether the factories were being built with the political support of the Pozderac brothers, whether they had financial backing, nor did they mind the autocratic character of Abdic's rule. At the same time, his nickname "Babo", which in the Muslim culture means father, denotes a person of authority, who is respected and whose orders are carried out unquestioningly. Abdic emerged from the "Agrocommerce" affair, which started with the drawing of unsecured bills, political stronger than before. On the list of Izetbegovic's Party of Democratic Action (SDA) for the state Presidency, he won record-high one million votes. That number of votes represented a kind of plebiscite: some thought that he had been tried although innocent and the Bosniacs also thought that that had been Slobodan Milosevic's doing. It is generally believed that the scandal was fabricated in Belgrade so as to remove Hamdija Pozderac, who was at the head of the Federal Constitutional Commission, in order to make the destruction of B&H easier.

However, by his moves during the war, Abdic totally bewildered his until recent fans, making an agreement with Milosevic and Karadzic in the whirlwind of the war (October 22, 1993) and with Boban at the peak of Croatian-Bosniac conflict (September 14, 1993). Political justification for the proclamation of autonomy in the area of Bihac Pocket might have been somehow found later on, but with this agreement he incurred the rage of his until recent followers, which turned into an inter-Bosniac conflict that took at least 2 thousand lives. The indictment accuses Abdic of having established collection centres and camps in the area of the autonomy in which people were harassed and killed. These murders obviously had a specific political context. The idea on autonomy had its ardent followers and opponents. Its political opponents were isolated and imprisoned. In a broader prospective, the harassment and murder of people (which can be motivated by the most base passions) represent a reflection of the political idea of autonomy.

In an in interview for the TV network OBN, Abdic tried to justify the idea of autonomy with his intention to "save the Muslim nation". In it he drew a historic parallel with the controversial leader from World War II, Husko Miljkovic, who had commanded some three thousand local Muslim volunteers. Miljkovic, whom the Partisans most probably killed in 1944, tried to pacify the Cazin Krajina by cooperating with everyone - the Ustashas, the Germans, the Italians, the Chetniks and the Partisans. It seems that Fikret Abdic shared the same obsession, because he tried to revive the failed Huska's recipe under different historic circumstances. Such assumption is best proven by documents of the autonomy and proclamations that Abdic signed during the war. These documents were published in a book "A Key for the Resolution of the B&H Crisis" under the aegis of the Republic of Western Bosnia.

Abdic harboured illusions that he had to stop the war at any cost, thus subjecting partial interests (of the Bihac region) to those of the whole (B&H). The autonomy, which in May 1995 developed into a Republic, was conceived as a separate entity with all prerogatives of a state.

The Declaration, which he had signed with Radovan Karadzic under the sponsorship of Slobodan Milosevic, prejudiced the constitutional set-up of B&H as a "Union of Republics", mutual recognition of the Republic of Srpska and the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia (APZB), delineated borders and envisaged cooperation as if two independent states were in question. A month earlier (in September 1993) he had signed a Statement with Mate Boban in Zagreb, which was basically a political document and which also defined Bosnia as a "Union". He established cooperation with Tudjman and Milosevic (i.e. executors of their projects on the ground - Boban and Karadzic) at the time when attempts were being made to implement the plan on the division of B&H (designed in Karadjordjevo at Tudjman-Milosevic meeting in March 1991) with tanks. Saving Velika Kladusa, Abdic literally weakened the position of legal authorities in Sarajevo by negotiating with international mediators and playing into the hands of the destroyers of B&H.

Abdic simplified the causes of the war by reducing it to a "constitutional-political crisis" which resulted in two options a "centralist" (Izetbegovic's) one and "decentralist" (Abdic's) one. He never said a word of criticism about his war allies (Tudjman, Milosevic, Boban, Karadzic, Martic). Even today Abdic still thinks that he was right, but avoids some answers ("I can comment the agreements, the question is when and at what time"), especially those about Milosevic and Tudjman ("I do not want to name the culprits, that is not my job"). For crimes committed in Velika Kladusa he says that these stories were part of a conspiracy of the Bosniac secret police - AID and for himself that "there is no man the Muslim people needed more than Fikret Abdic".

The continuation of his trial, scheduled for October, will be a political spectacle in which Alija Izetbegovic and his associates will be taken to task. Perhaps Babo from Kladusa will be able to defend himself from charges of having committed war crimes. But he can never wipe out the fact that his war allies are now clients of the Hague Tribunal.

Emir HABUL

(AIM Sarajevo)