Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic has said that the publication of a photo by the Novosti weekly issued by the ethnic Serb umbrella organisation, reportedly showing him wearing an Ustasha cap is yet another attempt to discredit him, and dismissed the report as insinuation and provocation.
"This is yet another insinuation and provocation aimed at discrediting me as a human being and removing me from the political life," Hasanbegovic wrote in his response to Hina which asked him to comment on the controversial photo and its caption of an insignia of the Ustasha movement of the Nazi-style Independent State of Croatia during WW2.
According to Hasanbegovic's explanation, the photo released by the Novosti weekly, a newspaper of the Serb People's Council (SNV), was not taken in 1996 but in 1993 in Split's waterfront Riva when the 9th HOS battalion, which, he said, was a part of the Croatian Armed Forces, had an event there.
The minister recalls that recently the Split Mayor Ivo Baldasar and local authorities have erected a monument in tribute to the killed members of that military unit.
All other interpretations are "insinuations which I am not going to comment on,"Hasanbegovic said.
Asked about the controversial photo and text, sources the government informed Hina that it was not going to comment on "unverified information".
Apart from publishing the photo for which it claims to have been taken in 1996, the Novosti weekly reported that Hasanbegovic used to write articles for the magazine"Independent State of Croatia" glorifying the Ustasha as heroes and martyrs.
The Novosti editor in chief, Ivica Djikic, has told Hina that it can be easily checked whether there were any interventions into the photo as old issues of the magazine "Independent State of Croatia" are stored in the archives of the National and University Library (NSK).
Djikic said that he did not know when the photo had been taken but he knew that it was published in the magazine "Independent State of Croatia" in 1996. "We have every reason to believe that the cap (Hasanbegovic was wearing in the photo) was an Ustasha cap," Djikic said.