Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) president Tomislav Karamarko won a suit pending appeal at the Zagreb Municipal Court on Friday against Nacional weekly, which should pay him HRK 70,000 (EUR 9,210) for an interview in which Josip Manolic claimed that Karamarko had worked for the Yugoslav-era secret service Udba.
Nacional was also ordered to remove the interview from its website and to publish the ruling in its entirety.
Karamarko's lawyer Veljko Miljevic said he would appeal because the damages were too low. Karamarako initially asked for HRK 200,000 in damages but eventually reduced the demand to HRK 180,000.
Nacional attorney Ivana Saucha said the ruling was a very bad message to the media and that it was contrary to European Court of Human Rights practice.
The Nacional reporter who interviewed Manolic, Orhideja Gaura, said the interview was authorised. "This is a message to all media - watch what you do, watch what you publish, watch who you talk to," she said.
Aside from Nacional, Karamarko also sued Manolic for slander because of the interview. Proceedings began at the Municipal Court on January 20 and were referred to the conciliation council, which has three months to deliver a verdict.
The lawsuit against Nacional was filed shortly after the interview was published on June 2 last year. In it, Manolic said that Udba caught Karamarko committing petty crime and blackmailed him into working for them. Karamarko sued Nacional, Manolic and Ante Barisic, a political science professor who confirmed the claims in the interview.
Karamarko said Manolic's claims were lies and slander made public "for political motives and pre-election purposes." He said he had not worked for but been a victim of Udba, that all his life he had openly promoted a pro-European and anti-totalitarian policy, and that Manolic wanted to discredit him because he advocated the prosecution of culprits for communist crimes.
Manolic was one of the founders of the HDZ and the closest associate of HDZ president Franjo Tudjman during the fight for Croatia's independence. He told Nacional that Tudjman, had he embarked on lustration, would first have had to get rid of Karamarko because he "worked for Udba in the late 1980s." In the early 1990s, when Manolic was Croatian prime minister, Karamarko was his chief of staff.