The judgement against Zagreb Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac, who was sentenced in 1946 by the Communist regime to 16 years in prison and forced labour and was stripped of his political and civil rights for five years, was on Friday annulled by the Zagreb County Court that established that the guilty verdict had grossly violated the then and the current principles of the criminal law.
The decision to quash the ruling was explained by Judge Ivan Turudic.
The judge said that the rigged politically-motivated trial against Stepinac, violated the right to a fair trial as well as rules of the law-based state.
Turudic said that it was evident from the minutes of the trial that prosecutorial witnesses had been instructed how to charge the defendant.
Turudic said that the purpose of the trial against Stepinac was to morally compromise him and the Catholic Church.
"His guilt was that he was the Archbishop of Zagreb during the (Nazi-style) Independent State of Croatia," the judge said today.
Earlier this week, spokesman for the court Ratko Scekic told Hina that Stepinac's nephew requested that the verdict against the archbishop be challenged.
Cardinal Stepinac (1898-1960) was the leading person of the Catholic Church in Croatia during World War Two. After the war, Communist authorities charged him with collaborating with the Ustasha regime of the Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945), although he publicly denounced the crimes of the pro-Nazi regime and actively helped provide sanctuary for those persecuted. Subsequently, Stepinac spent five years in prison and nine years under house arrest until he died.
In October 1946 the then Supreme Court found him guilty of all charges in his indictment.
In February 1992, the Croatian Sabor adopted the declaration condemning the court decision and the process that led to it. The declaration states that the true reason of Stepinac's imprisonment was his pointing out many communist crimes and especially refusing to form a Croatian Catholic Church in schism with the Pope.
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