Branimir Glavaš (born 23 September 1956) is a Croatian former major general and right-wing politician. He was one of the founders of Croatian Democratic Union and one of its key players until split in 2006. In 2009 he was found guilty for war crimes.
Glavaš came to prominence in his home city of Osijek during the Croatian war of independence, when he led its defense and became a major general in the Croatian Army. After the war he continued to exercise much influence as one of the leading members of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).
In 2005/2006, Glavaš was first accused of war crimes, and he also left HDZ and founded a new party – the Croatian Democratic Assembly of Slavonia and Baranja (HDSSB). After a lengthy and controversial trial, during which he was re-elected to parliament and had to be stripped of immunity twice, in 2009 he was found guilty of torture and murder of Serb civilians in Osijek during the war, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Glavaš fled to neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he remained free because of his dual citizenship. In 2010, when his conviction was confirmed, though commuted to 8 years in prison, he was ejected from the Croatian Parliament, stripped of his war-time medals and rank, and eventually incarcerated in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Early life and military career
In 1990 Glavaš was one of the founders of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and one of the most prominent members of that party in Slavonia. In the same year he was elected to the Croatian Parliament (Sabor) and later became part of the last Croatian delegation in the House of Republics and Provinces of the Yugoslav Federal Assembly.
When the tensions between the new Croatian government and Croatia's ethnic Serb minority began to escalate, Glavaš emerged as one of the most militant Croatian politicians, earning the reputation of a maverick. From 12 October 1990 until 24 April 1992 he was secretary of the Secretariat for Defense of the Osijek municipality (Sekretarijat za narodnu obranu općine Osijek), becoming one of the most important officials in charge of defending Osijek and Slavonia. On 2 November 1991, with Croatian War of Independence already in progress, he was appointed assistant to the commander for the defence of Osijek in charge of territorial co-ordination and public relations. On 1 December 1991 he was appointed to the rank of major (bojnik) and on 7 December 1991 he was appointed commander of defence for Osijek.
His record in wartime Osijek is the subject of some controversy - while some point to his armed takeover of the local daily newspaper Glas Slavonije as an illustration of Glavaš' questionable methods of government, others see him as an icon of Croatian resistance who was affectionately called the "Father and Mother of Slavonia". What isn't debatable is that Glavaš emerged from the war as the most powerful politician in eastern Slavonia, able to defy even Franjo Tuđman.
In April 1992, after the Command for the defence of Osijek was dissolved, he was named assistant to the commander of First operation zone Osijek.
Political career after the war
At the February 1993 elections he was elected delegate to the Chamber of Counties (Županijski dom Sabora), and on 14 April 1993 he became the first prefect of the Osijek-Baranja County (župan Osječko-baranjske županije).
Over time, Glavaš developed a rivalry with the Osijek mayor Zlatko Kramarić, who was his opposite in everything—from politics to style. After the 1993 local elections, Kramarić came to power in Osijek, but Glavaš and his HDZ kept the rest of the Osijek-Baranja county. In that period Glavaš surprised many by offering agricultural subsidies to ethnic Serb citizens in then-occupied sections of eastern Slavonia, and explaining that he would be "first in peace just as he was first in war".
At the October 1995 elections he was elected to the Chamber of Representatives (Zastupnički dom Sabora), then he was re-elected to the Chamber of Counties at the April 1997 elections, and in May 1997 he was also reelected prefect of the Osijek-Baranja County.
In October 1997 he was named the Inspector of the Croatian Army (Inspektor Hrvatske Vojske) at the Inspectorate General of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia (Glavna Inspekcija Oružanih Snaga Republike Hrvatske), Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Croatia. In February 1999, he returned to his county political office, where he remained until the end of June 2000.
In November 1997, he petitioned the authorities to recognize his partial disability, caused by a broken rib injury he sustained while driving near Bjelovar in January 1992. He was later temporarily stripped of the disabled veteran status, until it was reinstated by a court order.
Partly through charisma, partly through a well-established network of supporters, and partly through presenting himself as a champion of Slavonian interests in Zagreb, Glavaš maintained a tight grip on power and eastern Slavonia remained an HDZ stronghold even after the death of Franjo Tuđman and his party's loss of power at the national level in 2000.
In 2002, when hardliner Ivić Pašalić challenged new and moderate HDZ leader Ivo Sanader for party leadership, Branimir Glavaš, despite his own hardline credentials, decided to support the latter. At the crucial HDZ convention he provided security, which helped Sanader to remain the party chairman.
A year later, the HDZ won the November 2003 parliamentary election and Ivo Sanader became prime minister, with Glavaš as one of his most important allies. Glavaš himself was reelected as a member of parliament.
Split with HDZ
As time went by and Ivo Sanader's policies became less popular, and there were apparent setbacks for Croatia's prospects for entry into the EU, so Glavaš began to publicly distance himself from Sanader. Glavaš expressed Euroscepticism with regard to how the EU would handle the Croatian accession negotiations, and views critical towards the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
This process escalated a few days before the start of local elections in May 2005. Glavaš proclaimed himself to be a regionalist and began to advocate regional reorganisation of Croatia, founding a political organisation with that aim. On 20 April 2005, the programme of the Hrvatski demokratski sabor Slavonije i Baranje - Croatian Democratic Assembly of Slavonia and Baranja - was first published, and Glavaš was immediately ejected from the HDZ on 21 April 2005, but not before persuading almost the entire membership of the local party to support his project and new electoral ticket.
In the Croatian local elections, 2005, his list of independent candidates won a relative majority in Osijek and Osijek-Baranja county. This prompted Kramarić to approach all other parties in Osijek and attempt to form a broad anti-Glavaš coalition, an offer which was accepted and resulted in HDZ loyalists being allied with the likes of the Social Democratic Party of Croatia.
In June 2005 Glavaš defeated this scheme, first by allying with the far-right Croatian Party of Rights (HSP), in a coalition that gave the HSP the mayoral position in Osijek for the first time; and then by persuading some assemblymen of the anti-Glavaš coalition to support his candidates in inaugural sessions of the Osijek-Baranja county and City of Osijek assembly.
On 21 May 2005 Glavaš and his supporters founded a new political party - Hrvatski demokratski savez Slavonije i Baranje - the Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja.
War crimes charges
In July 2005, Glavaš was publicly implicated in the 1991 murders of Serb civilians in Osijek. In May 2006 Croatian chief prosecutor Mladen Bajić asked the Croatian Parliament to deprive Glavaš of his parliamentary immunity, in order to start formal criminal proceedings in the case. On 10 May, this request was granted.
During the proceedings, prosecutors failed twice in their attempts to have Glavaš arrested, because investigative magistrates and local courts rejected their demands to issue arrest warrants. However, on 23 October one investigative magistrate issued an arrest warrant, which was approved by the Mandate-Immunity Committee of Croatian Parliament after four days of dramatic and confusing deliberations. Glavaš was arrested on 26 October and put in jail for fear that he might influence witnesses if he was bailed.
Osijek's investigative judge Mario Kovac then ruled that the case against Glavaš can begin. Glavaš subsequently went on hunger strike. On 2 December 2006, Glavaš was released from custody pending his trial, bringing to an end his 37-day hunger strike. The investigating judge had ruled that Glavaš was too ill to attend legal hearings, and investigations were suspended. On 8 February 2007, the case against Glavas was reopened.
Branimir Glavaš was re-indicted on 16 April 2007 at the county court in Osijek, for allegedly giving orders to members of a unit under his command to abduct, torture and murder Serbs in late 1991. Following the indictment, he was returned to custody. He started a second hunger strike on 27 April. On 9 May a second indictment was brought against him on charges of ordering the torture and killing of at least two Serb civilians. His trial began in Osijek on 15 October 2007.
In the Croatian elections of 25 November 2007, Glavaš was re-elected to parliament. This restored his immunity, and he was released from detention. On 14 July 2008, the trial was adjourned until September 2008 because of the poor health of one of Glavaš's co-accused. Under Croatian law, since there was a break of more than two months in the trial, there had to be a retrial.
Glavaš and his supporters claimed that the criminal investigation was politically motivated and pointed to its start coinciding with Glavaš's departure from the ruling HDZ party. At the same time, it was reported that witnesses in the trial, including Osijek-based journalist Drago Hedl, were threatened.
On 8 May 2009 the Zagreb District Court found Glavaš guilty of torture and murder of Serbian civilians in Osijek, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. However, Vladimir Šišljagić, the leader of HDSSB, the political party Glavaš founded when he left HDZ, showed up in court instead of him and stated that he was "in a safe place". Glavaš fled the country, reportedly to Herzegovina, having procured citizenship in Bosnia-Herzegovina seven months earlier.
The verdict caused his membership in the Parliament to be automatically rescinded, together with the immunity and other privileges he continued to enjoy up to it. The parliamentary committee subsequently decided that his mandate ended with the day of the final verdict, May 2, 2010, a decision to which he publicly appealed saying they owe him one salary.  Another scandal soon arose when it was discovered that prominent members of his political party had participated in a plot to bribe members of the Supreme Court in order for them to show lenience to Glavaš.
Based on the agreement on mutual execution of criminal sanctions between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina confirmed the second-instance verdict and Glavaš was arrested in Drinovci on 28 September 2010.
- Homeland's Gratitude Medal
- Homeland War Memorial Medal
- Order of the Croatian Trefoil
- Order of Ante Starčević
- Order of Ban Jelačić
- Order of Duke Domagoj
- Order of Duke Trpimir
After his war crimes conviction, the revocation of these decorations was an oft-mentioned topic in the media, and both Croatian Presidents Mesić and Josipović said that they would handle the issue according to the law which states that illegal and immoral acts are grounds for revocation. Finally, after his Supreme Court verdict, President Josipović formally took away the decorations, but not before Glavaš told the media he had sold his medals to someone. Josipović responded to this by saying the metal insignia can be dealt with whichever way one wishes to deal with them, but that the moral content of the honor is bestowed by the President of the Republic.
In August 2010, President Josipović also said that Glavaš would enter a military procedure for his rank of general to be rescinded, according to a law that says officers who are given a prolonged prison sentence (over three years) lose their rank. A month later, he issued a decision to that effect, for Glavaš as well as for Mirko Norac, Vladimir Zagorec, Tihomir Orešković and Siniša Rimac.
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- Official biography
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- (Croatian) Glavaš Homepage