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In Court, Former Croatian PM Rejects Bribery Charges

Former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader is flanked by court policemen at the beginning of his trial in Zagreb on November 3.
Former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader has adamantly rejected charges of corruption and war profiteering related to a $14 million loan from an Austrian bank in 1995, RFE/RL's Balkan Service and other media report.

The process relates to one of six separate investigations of the 58-year-old Sanader over allegations of corruption or abuse of office.

He is the most senior Croatian official to face charges since the country fought for its independence from the former Yugoslavia.

In the Zagreb courtroom, Sanader expressed "indignation" and his lawyers tried to shoot holes in the prosecution's assertion that Hypo Bank had paid then-Deputy Foreign Minister Sanader some $650,000 to facilitate the credit and to be granted favored status in the country.

The trial of Sanader, who faces a handful of other corruption-related charges and entered the courtroom with the aid of a crutch, had been postponed last week for health reasons.

He served as prime minister from 2003-09.

Sanader was extradited by Austria in July, one month after Zagreb completed accession talks with the European Union, which has pressured Croatia to act to curb corruption.

He told the court on November 3 that a special investigation by Austrian authorities into Hypo Bank's activities found no evidence of wrongdoing on his part, noting that he'd been called as a witness in the case.

Croatia fought a war in 1991-95 over its declaration of independence from Yugoslavia.