About 400 people packed St. Anthony's Croatian Church in Los Angeles on Saturday night in a memorial Mass for convicted war criminal Andrija Artukovic, and heard the highest-ranking Nazi extradited from the United States defended as a victim of gross injustices.
Artukovic, a former resident of Seal Beach, died Jan. 16 at the age of 88 in a prison hospital in Yugoslavia, where he had been convicted of war crimes.
Artukovic's son, Radoslav, told relatives and friends at the service that the Yugoslav government will not reveal what happened to the remains of his father.
Radoslav Artukovic, 39, a stock trader, as he has in the past, vigorously denied his father orchestrated mass murders during World War II.
Artukovic served as interior minister of the Nazi puppet regime in Croatia during World II under the regime of Ante Pavelic, a fascist who was given control of much of Yugoslavia in 1941 after the former government fell to the Nazis. His son has maintained that his father was a civilian cabinet minister and was not responsible for running concentration camps.
The elder Artukovic moved to the United States after the war and spent nearly half his life living in Seal Beach. For years he successfully defeated efforts to have him expelled for his wartime activities. In March, 1985, however, U.S. Magistrate Volney V. Brown Jr. ordered the senior Artukovic returned to Yugoslavia to face a war crimes trial.
Artukovic was convicted by a Yugoslav court of mass murders, including ordering the deaths by machine-gun fire of 450 men, women and children in 1941 and ordering the killing of the entire population of the town of Vrgin Most and its surrounding villages the next year.
He was sentenced to death by firing squad but died before the sentence was carried out.
Far Different Picture
But Radoslav Artukovic painted a far different picture of his father. "He believed in God (and) in his nation," his son said during the Mass in the 78-year-old church. "They don't come any truer than dad. I'm proud that I'm his son."
Later, addressing the same crowd in the adjacent church meeting hall, Radoslav Artukovic said that after repeated attempts, he still has not been able to determine what the Yugoslav government did with his father's body.
Working through his legal representative in Zagreb, where his father was tried and convicted, Radoslav Artukovic said Yugoslavian authorities have made a decision that "they would not tell us when he was disposed of or where he was disposed of."
He added that he assumes the remains were cremated.
Underscoring that he is committed to vindicating his father, Radoslav Artukovic said he will present to the U.S. Justice Department in Washington on Feb. 12 a 100-page report he prepared, titled, "The Anatomy of a Fraud," in which, he said, he would detail how the U.S. government illegally extradited his father.
He said he would then lead an all-night vigil in front of the downtown federal courthouse in Los Angeles to keep the spotlight on the case. It was in that courthouse in March, 1985, that Brown issued his extradition order.
Radoslav Artukovic said his twin goals were to have Washington revoke the order and to persuade the Belgrade government to reopen the hearings.