BERLIN (AP) — Germany will ask Croatia to extradite an alleged ex-spy sought over a communist-era assassination when the former Yugoslav republic joins the European Union next week, officials said Thursday.
Josip Perkovic is wanted in connection with the killing 20 years ago of Stjepan Djurekovic, an exiled Croatian dissident, a spokeswoman for the German Federal Prosecutors Office said.
Perkovic, 68, is alleged to have worked for the Yugoslav secret service when Djurekovic was killed in 1983 in what was then West Germany. Earlier this week, German police raised a reward for Perkovic's arrest to 12,000 euros ($15,630) from 5,000 euros; officials haven't specified what role they believe Perkovic played in the killing.
"We will seek his extradition," federal prosecutors' spokeswoman Frauke Koehler told The Associated Press, adding that the request would be made "in accordance with the law."
What exactly the law will be when Croatia joins the EU on July 1 is still unclear, however.
German police first issued a warrant for Perkovic's arrest in 2005, but Croatia refused at the time to extradite its own citizens. As part of Croatia's membership of the EU, starting on Monday the Balkan country would normally be required to surrender all suspects sought by fellow member states — including those with Croatian citizenship.
But word of the German extradition plan has triggered last-minute efforts in Croatia to pass a bill that would prevent Perkovic's handover, straining relations between Berlin and Zagreb that have traditionally been good since Germany became the first country to recognize Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.
Earlier this week German Chancellor Angela Merkel canceled plans to attend a ceremony marking Croatia's EU entry Sunday, citing other engagements. Merkel's office declined to say what those engagements were.
In 2008, a German court convicted former Yugoslav agent Krunoslav Prates to life in prison for his part in the murder of Djurekovic at a print shop in Wolfratshausen, near Munich.
Djurekovic had reportedly been ordered "liquidated" by Yugoslav intelligence in 1982 for criticizing the country's communist regime at the time.