The «Puljiz» affair, which has been under the public scrutiny for more than a month now, is still without resolution. Namely, freelance journalist Helena Puljiz accused Croatian Counter – Intelligence Service (CIS) for unauthorized and illegal questioning. Even after her public appearance and addres to the Civic Committee for Oversight of the Secret Services, as well as numerous public discussions, Croatia knows very little of what lies beneath the surface of the affair while Helena Puljiz decided to seek court protection.(26-NOV-04)
According to Helena Puljiz, last month an agent, who introduced himself as a member of Organised Crime Department by the Ministry of Interior Affairs, requested a meeting with her. Upon arrival to the appointed place of meeting another agent joined him. They both had counter-intelligence identification papers, and were interested in some information she posessed about Željko Bagiæ, controversial former associate of Stjepan Mesiæ, the President of The Republic of Croatia, who is recently suspected for having contacts with Haague fugitive general Ante Gotovina. Appart from that, they were interested in other activities she conducted as a journalist reporting from the Office of the President, so they suggested to her to continue the conversation in the CIS Hedquarters in Zagreb. During the five-hour conversation that followed, she was allegedly exposed to threats and blackmails, and was, above all offered a co-operation with CIS, what she refused.
Numerous public discussions followed after her addres to the Civic Committee for the Oversight of the Secret Services, Croatian Association of Journalists and Croatian Helsinki Committee. In the meantime, Helena Puljiz issued a public statement denying any involvement in the activities that may endanger national security, as well as posession of information important for national security. Therefore, she argues, there was no legitimate background for this act.
Having the jurisdiction over this case, Civic Committee for Oversight of the Secret Services draw some conclusions. After two hearings, Committee agreed that there is no indisputable evidence of misconduct or secret listening of Helena Puljiz. Furthermore, invitation for conversation with Helena Puljiz was legitimate, beacuse Secret Services have the right to invite and question every person suspected to have information related to the national security. – In reaching this conclusion Committee should have had in mind article 9. of Decision on Committee, since it has been found that there was a «reasonouble doubt of groundless human rights violations and fundamental freedoms.» – explained his view Tin Gazivoda, member of the Committee.
Sudden shift of the case came yesterday from the Office of the President Stjepan Mesiæ. Encouraged with the report from the Office of the Council for National Security, he decided to relieve the CIS director Joško Podbevšek of his duty, expressing his discontent with the way CIS collected information from Helena Puljiz. «By doing so CIS did not respect Constitutional regulation which define human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as other sub-acts which regulate methodology on collecting information and procedures of application of statutory authority.» – stands in the decision. However, in order to relieve Joško Podbevšek from his duty, President Mesiæ needs a consent from Prime Minister Ivo Sanader.
-I will not sign this decision, because it is his reaction on the CIS denunciation of Željko Bagiæ and Franjo Turek, former director of the CIS, to the police.
Allthough this recent decision from President Mesiæ brings a new reflect on the whole case and confirms doubts of human rights violations and excess of authority, it seems likely that this affair will remain a mystery until further notice.