The Supreme Court has sentenced former HDZ MP Franjo Lucic to an unconditional term of one year in prison for attempted bribery of journalist Drago Hedl, changing the original sentence of one year's imprisonment that was commuted to community service.
The Croatian highest court said it had changed the trial court’s ruling after upholding the appeal by the state attorney and dismissing Lucic’s appeal as unfounded.
The Supreme court said that the trial court had overrated the mitigating circumstances for Lucic, such as the fact that he had no previous convictions, that he is a parent and his age, while neglecting the fact that he committed a serious crime of corruption.
The Supreme Court said that Lucic had committed a gross violation of the Croatian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of thought, including freedom of the press and other media, and freedom of speech, even though it was his duty as a member of the Croatian Parliament to protect and promote the constitutional rights of citizens.
According to the indictment, on July 26 2017, in the eastern city of Pozega, Lucic offered a financial reward to Drago Hedl, a journalist with the Telegram news website, to stop him from writing about his business and financial transactions and about his companies, because the article would cause damage to him as a member of Parliament and a businessman.
In a telephone conversation, which Hedl recorded, Lucic offered to pay three times the amount the journalist would receive from his employer to stop the article being published.
The Osijek County Court found beyond any doubt that in offering Hedl a bribe so that he would not write an article about him, his companies and companies owned by his family, Lucic acted with direct intent.
Lucic did not appear at the sentencing hearing.
During the trial, he denied any criminal responsibility, claiming that in the recording of the conversation “a lot of things were taken out of context.” He said he did not want to buy Hedl off, but only asked him to delay the publication of his article so that it would not cause harm to his company and a company owned by his son, which was negotiating a loan with a commercial bank so that it could continue operating and keep its workers.