Pukanic, owner and editorial director of the Zagreb-based political weekly Nacional, and Niko Franjic, the marketing director, were killed when a bomb placed under the journalist's car exploded outside the paper's offices, according to press reports and CPJ sources. Local press reports said Pukanic and Franjic were close to the car when the blast took place. Nacional often exposed corruption, organized crime, and human rights abuses, local sources told CPJ.
Croatian authorities moved swiftly to pursue the killers. On October 24, The Associated Press quoted Prime Minister Ivo Sanader as saying that authorities "will fight organized crime or terrorism--whatever is behind this murder--to its very end." On November 1, Croatian police announced that they had charged five suspects in connection with the murder.
In addition, police spokesman Krunoslav Borovec said
investigators were working with Bosnian authorities to track down the suspect
they believe planted the bomb. Local press reports identified the suspect as
Zeljko Milovanovic, a Bosnian Serb and former member of a Serbian paramilitary
group called the Red Berets. He held both Croatian and Bosnian passports,
according to the independent Serbian broadcaster B92. According to Reuters,
Bosnian police raided Milovanovic's house in the northern Bosnian town of
Pukanic had reported an earlier attack to police. In April, he told police, an unidentified assailant approached him near his apartment building, brandished a handgun and fired, narrowly missing him, the Croatian news Web site Javno reported. The assailant was not apprehended.
In 2009, Sreten Jocic, a member of an organized crime group and the suspected mastermind, was charged with involvement in Pukanic's murder. The next year, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for an unrelated murder.
In November 2010, the Municipal Court in Zagreb convicted five conspirators in the bombing and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 15 to 33 years. Milovanovic was convicted in absentia and sentenced to a 40-year term. He was arrested in Serbia in 2009 and tried in Belgrade on similar charges. On April 2, 2014, the Belgrade Special Court convicted Milovanovic of planting the bomb and sentenced him to 40 years in jail. His accomplice in the case, Milenko Kuzmanovic, was handed a five-year prison term on charges of helping Milovanovic with a forged passport, local and international press reported. According to Reuters, the court declared that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to prove that Jocic ordered the murder and dropped his charges. He continues to serve a jail term in an unrelated case.
Authorities said organized crime figures had targeted Pukanic to prevent his paper from publishing a series of articles exposing tobacco smuggling in the Balkans.