Karlovac Mayor Damir Mandic said on Monday he supported the proposal that the bridge over the Korana river be renamed after the wartime special police unit "Grom (Thunder)", but he would not attend the unveiling of a mural in honour of Mihajlo Hrastov, who had committed a war crime on the bridge.
The proposal to rename the bridge will be on the agenda of the 21-seat City Council on Tuesday.
Mayor Mandic, of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), said that since 2009 the City of Karlovac had been committed to marking the Homeland War memorial days in an appropriate manner, recalling the erection of the monument to Homeland War veterans in the city in 2009, the opening of the Homeland War Museum in the suburb of Turanj and the renaming of two bridges after wartime units.
Citing plans for commemorating events from the war, the mayor said that the bridge at Rakovac would be named after the SPJ Grom at the request of an association bringing together members of that special police unit.
He underscored that 225 soldiers who had lost their lives defending the city and civilians victims of the war deserved to be commemorated.
Mandic said that he would not attend the ceremonies which some associations of war veterans would organise on Tuesday to mark the unveiling of the mural near the Rakovac bridge in honour of former special police officer Hrastov, who was in 2015 sentenced to four years in prison for the murder of 13 and wounding of two Yugoslav army reservists on the Korana bridge in 1991. Hrastov’s trial began in 1992 and was one of the longest in Croatia. He was acquitted three times by the Karlovac County Court, but in May 2015 the Supreme Court upheld the four-year prison sentence against him.
Mandic said that the conviction had been delivered by a Croatian court and should be respected, and that in his capacity as mayor he must avoid giving personal interpretations.
He said that he could understand those war veterans who felt all that as injustice.
Mandic also called for dialogue with the families of the 13 Yugoslav army soldiers who wanted to light candles on the bridge last year.
We Can councillors against naming the bridge after special police unit
On Monday afternoon, the three councillors of the opposition We Can party said that the renaming of the bridge would commemorate “the most controversial moment in the defence of Karlovac”.
Councillor Antun Alegro said that 13 Yugoslav army soldiers had been killed on that bridge on 21 September 1991 and that naming the bridge after the unit that took part in that operation constituted “anti-civilisation absurdity”.
Alegro said he was not denying anybody the right to think that on 21 September 1991 Hrastov saved Karlovac but added that during the Homeland War and its defence Karlovac had many indisputably glorious moments that should be honoured.