Croatia: Attack on Journalist Investigated as Attempted Murder

The criminal investigation into a violent attack on a Croatian investigative journalist has been upgraded to attempted murder.

Zeljko PeratovicReporter Zeljko Peratovic claims he was left with a concussion and a broken skull after three men attacked him outside his home in the central Croatian village of Pokupska Luka on May 28.

After shouting abuse at him that mentioned a 2010 story he wrote about the illegal excavation of gravel in the region, the men reportedly followed him into his home where they beat him.

Three men were placed under investigation the next day on suspicion of inflicting bodily harm, but a court ruled Monday that they should instead be investigated for the more serious offense of attempted murder.

On June 15, Peratovic told the state prosecutor in a criminal complaint that one of the suspects had choked him while saying, "I will kill you," after another of his attackersbeat him around the temples with a metal alarm clock.

"At that point, I already saw death," Peratovic told OCCRP, describing the attack.

He believes he would have died if he had not defended himself, grabbing the testicles of his assailant as he gasped for air.

As the chokehold loosened, he said, he  began to shout for help and the attackers fled.

No charges have been brought against them at this time.

Although his assailants mentioned his reporting on illegal gravel excavation involving officials in Karlovac, central Croatia, Peratovic claims he had never seen the men before and was not aware of having written about them.

This led him to believe the attack could have been ordered by someone else, and be connected to another of his stories.

International journalist organizations the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have condemned the attack, calling for a probe into possible links to his journalism.

Peratovic is a well-known reporter in Croatia where he has published a body of investigative work.

In May, the Croatian Journalists’ Association awarded Peratovic the HND Investigative Journalist of the Year Award for his story about the ongoing trial of Josip Perkovic, former director of the Yugoslav-era secret police in Croatia, and fellow former agent Zdravko Mustac, for their alleged involvement in the 1983 murder of Croatian businessman, Stjepan Djurekovic.