Recent imprisonment of former Prime Minister and 2008 European Council President is result of political trial

By Edward Gobetz

It is hard to believe that several western media were so completely misled by an article authored by Ali Zerdin (Aleksander Horvat), editor of Delo Saturday Supplement.  After incarceration on Friday, June 20, of Janez Jansa, twice prime minister of Slovenia and in 2008 successful president of European Council, Zerdin’s article, published by the Associated Press, appeared in many influential media, ranging from BBC News and Star-Telegram to Fox News and Shanghai Daily. Titles such as “Ex-Slovenian leader begins prison term for bribery” or “Ex-Slovenian PM Janez Jansa convicted of corruption” undoubtedly misled countless readers in many countries to believe that the leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party must be guilty of serious crimes for which he was sentenced to a two-year prison term at the Dob Penitentiary and a fine of 37,000 euros ($50,332). In his first AP article of June 20 Zerdin writes that »Jansa and two others were convicted last year of accepting about 2 million euros ($2.7 million) in bribes while in office to help the Finnish firm Patria win a contract for 135 armored personnel carriers worth 278 million euros ($377 million).« On June 23rd, a limited correction was published, according to which Jansa and two others »were convicted last year of accepting promise of an award for Jansa's  SDS party.« Accepting promise of an award is, of course, essentially different from accepting an award, but the charge of corruption has remained unchanged and unchallenged.

All this,  indeed, would sound like a substantial crime, if only the charges were true. Please note that this accusation first appeared in the media at the time of Jansa's 2008 conclusion of a successful 4-year term as PM of Slovenia and six month service as  president of the European Council. Of course, this happened just before new elections in which Jansa  was likely to win a second PM term. A vicious media campaign centering on the Patria scandal  helped the candidate of Social Democrats Party, the direct successor of Milan Kucan's League of Communists and the Communist Party, to win by a very narrow margin.
The accusations were consistently  brought to a boiling point just before all subsequent elections by the media, such as Zerdin's Delo, described as a left-wing daily, established in 1959 as the successor of two earlier openly communist papers. The continuous media campaign and Zerdin's AP article are in fact part and parcel of political communist propaganda to destroy democratic political opposition led by Jansa.
Indeed, Karl Erjavec, the president of left-wing (!) Dessus Party who as the defense minister in Jansa's coalition government had signed the Patria contract has publicly stated that Jansa was not in any way involved in the Patria purchase. The sentence itself  also presented  no evidence whatsoever of Jansa's involvement. It  was  based on nothing firmer than an assumption that »the accused PM received in an unknown manner a promise of an award (not an award itself!) of unspecified value, from an unknown source, at an unknown time and place for his unknown kind of support of the  Patria purchase.« Zerdin and reporters of his ilk, of course, never bothered to clarify the above unknowns or at least mention them in their tendential articles and frequent appearances on Slovenian TV.   

Clearly, this was a mounted political trial reminiscent of those in the Soviet Union or more recently in Belarus and Ukraine. It is a legal farce in the eyes of  any objective observer, including informed newspapers,  such as Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung. Many legal experts agree that the sentence of Jansa is  unproven  and/or politically motivated, among them Klemen Jaklic, with doctorates  from Oxford and Harvard, who teaches law at Harvard; Dr. Lovro Sturm, former professor of law, minister and a member of European Council of Jurisprudence; Dr. Matevz Krivic, a former judge,  and three current judges  of the Slovenian Constitutional  Court:  Dr. Mitja Deisinger, Dr. Jan Zobec, and Dr. Ernest Petric (the first Ambassador of Slovenia to the United States of America). Thousands of others have also been shocked by this legal farce, including Drago Jancar, one of Slovenia's and Europe's foremost writers and playwrights, and Cardinal France Rode, a noted scholar and author.

While not a single Yugoslav,  Slovenian or other perpetrator of communist murders resulting in over 600 mass graves has so far been sentenced by the communist-dominated courts, Jansa and many other anticommunists have been maligned, prosecuted and sentenced in mounted Yugoslav and later Slovenian political trials. Sooner or later, Jansa's sentence will be overturned in Slovenia or by the European Supreme Court.  But at this time, the communists and their successors and supporters celebrate the incarceration of Jansa hoping that this strongest opposition party leader as a much maligned prisoner at the Dob Penitentiary could not possibly win another four-year term as PM in elections held on July 13 (or, according to Alenka Bratusek, legislation should be passed to disqualify him) —  and hoping that toxic publicity generated by the likes of Zerdin would destroy his international reputation. This is, if the democratic media of the world allow such travesty to go unchallenged.

Edward Gobetz, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Kent State University,  author of several books and Director of the Slovenian Research Center of America.

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