Social-Democrats protest rehabilitation of Croatia's pro-Nazis

ZAGREB, Jun 12, 2000 -- (AFP) Croatia's Social Democrats (SDP) protested Friday what it feared was an attempt to rehabilitate Croatia's WWII pro-Nazi regime with the unveiling of a plaque in memory of a Nazi-allied general.

The plaque, which was unveiled Thursday in memory of Jure Francetic, a general in the notorious Ustasha pro-Nazi militia, constituted another attempt by nationalists to rehabilitate the Ustasha, the SDP said in a statement.

The plaque was put up on the initiative of a group reuniting Croatian veterans of World War II.

Francetic, who founded a Ustasha unit called the Black Legion, was killed in 1942. A first plaque in his memory had been put in Slunj in 1943.

The Ustasha regime, officially called the Independent State of Croatia, was in power during World War II fighting Josip Broz Tito's Allied-backed partisans.

The SDP also condemned the "language of hatred," aiming at Croatian ethnic Serbs, used in Slunj and approved by Anto Djapic, the head of the rightist Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) and parliamentary deputy Tomislav Mercep, who were present at the ceremony.

The SDP pledged to oppose forces which "under the mask of protecting national interests advocate isolation instead of further democratization and opening of Croatia and its integration into European and international institutions."

Croatia's former regime under the late president Franjo Tudjman has been criticized by independent media and analysts for rehabilitating fascism.

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