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2006.03.22. – Jonathan Luxmoore – Franciscans demand apology about Croatian war crimes’ general

Warsaw (ENI). The Roman Catholic Franciscan order in Croatia and
Bosnia-Herzegovina has demanded an apology from United Nations’
war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte after she accused members
of harbouring a general wanted for war crimes.
"We have been deeply injured by these undeserved claims,"
the order’s five provinces said in a joint letter. "Although
we are ready to forgive you, our love for truth entitles us to expect
a public apology."

Del Ponte, chief prosecutor in The Hague of the UN Criminal Tribunal
for former Yugoslavia, had been quoted by Britain’s Daily Telegraph
newspaper in September saying she believed the wanted general, Ante
Gotovina, was sheltering in one of Croatia’s 80 monasteries.
General Gotovina faces charges of overseeing the killing of at least
150 Serb civilians during the Croatian army’s 1995 operation to
regain control of the Serb-occupied Krajina region, and the forced
deportation of tens of thousands of people.
The Franciscans said in their letter dated 10 October that the accusations
they were sheltering the general had "struck at the Catholic
church", adding that it would ask the order’s "creator
and confessor", St Francis of Assisi, to forgive the "defamation
of Franciscans".
Del Ponte had been reported saying she believed the Vatican could
pinpoint which monastery was involved "in a few days",
and had decided to go public after receiving no reply to a direct
appeal to Pope Benedict XVI.
The allegations were rejected by the Vatican and Croatia’s Catholic
Bishops Conference, as well as by the country’s Conference of Religious
Superiors, which said it was "unacceptable and intolerable"
that a UN-appointed official had "voiced public suspicions
without evidence". The European Union opened entry talks with
Croatia in October after Del Ponte said the country was co-operating
fully with the war crimes tribunal, while also noting that the Croatian
government’s actions in trying to track down Gotovina were under
scrutiny. The EU had made compliance with war crimes investigators
a condition for starting the talks.
Roman Catholics comprise almost 88 per cent of Croatia’s population
of 4.5 million, according to a 2001 census.

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