Deputy Parliament Speaker Robert Podolnjak said on Wednesday that his Bridge party expected Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic to clearly say that he was a staunch antifascist and to clearly distance himself from the Ustasha regime and all the evils from the period of the 1941-45 Independent State of Croatia (NDH).
Speaking in a Croatian Television political talk show, he recalled that Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said earlier in the day that he had talked with Hasanbegovic, that he was a staunch antifascist and that he would be a good minister. "If that's so, Bridge expects the minister to clearly say that he is a staunch antifascist and to clearly distance himself from the Ustasha regime and all the evils from the NDH period... That's an imperative, first and indispensable condition for the minister to clearly address the public that way."
Earlier today, the Serb National Council's magazine "Novosti" published a picture of Hasanbegovic saying it was taken in 1996, that he wore an Ustasha cap in it, and that he wrote articles about the Ustasha as heroes and martyrs in "Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska" (Independent State of Croatia), a magazine of the Croatian Liberation Movement.
Hasanbegovic called the photo another insinuation and an act of provocation aimed at discrediting him.
Asked by the host if the minister should resign if the claims in Novosti magazine turned out to be correct, Podolnjak said he did not have an overview of what was happening 20 years ago and that he did not read the web portals today. "But, Bridge's first condition is that the minister take a position very clearly and unambiguously and distance himself from the Ustasha regime and the NDH, that he clearly state his antifascism. That can be the foundation to build trust in the minister."
Milijan Brkic, secretary general of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party, which nominated Hasanbegovic for culture minister, said on his Facebook page that the "search for traces of 'Ustashism' has become hysterical... Without 'fascists', there is no need for 'antifascists'." He wrote that Hasanbegovic was a "particularly prominent target... Specially trained and equipped 'trios' are digging through old newspapers to find something to compromise him. And all for retaining privileges and staying on the budget."
Brkic reiterated the HDZ's position that it was against all forms of totalitarianism, Nazism, fascism and communism as well as all ideologies. Let's stop picking national wounds and turn towards the future, he said.
The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) said in a press release that if the Hasanbegovic photo was authentic and he wrote the articles mentioned by Novosti, he must suffer the consequences and that the prime minister must react. SDP vice president Zlatko Komadina said the minister must be promptly replaced.