October 6, 2008 / 7:23 PM / 12 years ago

Croat PM sacks ministers after new Zagreb murder

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said Monday he would sack his interior and justice ministers after the daughter of a prominent lawyer was shot dead in broad daylight in Zagreb.

Coroners carry a coffin with the body of Ivana Hodak, daughter of a prominent Croat lawyer, who was murdered in Zagreb October 6, 2008. Hodak, 26, was shot dead in Zagreb on Monday in the latest in a series of brutal daylight crimes that have highlighted worsening security in the capital. Police said Hodak was shot twice in the head in the stairway of the building where she lived in downtown Zagreb, not far from the police headquarters. REUTERS/Nikola Solic

“I shall propose to parliament to relieve of duty the justice minister, interior minister and the national police chief,” Sanader told an urgent news conference held at the government headquarters. Parliament, controlled by his conservative HDZ party, is expected to endorse his proposal.

Earlier Monday, Ivana Hodak, a 26-year old law intern, was shot twice in the head in the stairway of the building where she lived in downtown Zagreb, not far from the police headquarters.

Her murder was the latest in a series of brutal daylight crimes that have highlighted worsening security in the capital and prompted Sanader to appoint a new Zagreb police chief in September.

Armed police were deployed and set up roadblocks throughout the city after the murder was reported but no progress in the investigation was made public.

Hodak’s father Zvonimir is defending an ex-general extradited from Austria last week who is suspected of stealing $5 million (2.87 million pounds) in diamonds during Croatia’s independence war.

President Stjepan Mesic called the murder “a heinous crime, all the more dangerous as it happened in broad daylight. Of course the citizens feel alarmed.” He called a session of the National Security Council later this week.

Sanader said the new interior minister would be Tomislav Karamarko, now head of the central intelligence agency SOA. Former career diplomat and legal expert Ivan Simonovic should become justice minister and veteran police officer Vladimir Faber the new national police chief.

“I expect swift police action. It is high time we cracked down on the mafia,” Sanader said.

Croatia is negotiating European Union membership and the fight against corruption and organised crime is a key requirement it must meet to advance its application and complete the talks by the end of next year.

Journalists and human rights activists held a rally in September in protest against deteriorating security and the failure of the police to put an end to mob-style assaults in the capital.

Four months earlier, a prominent crime reporter was beaten up on the street. Police have yet to find the assailants.

A member of the Zagreb city administration was beaten with baseball bats earlier this year and the chief executive of a major construction firm was assaulted with iron bars last month, prompting the government to sack the Zagreb police chief.

Outgoing Interior Minister Berislav Roncevic told parliament last week he was satisfied with the work of the police and with security in the country in general.

Editing by Dominic Evans

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