BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — The Yugoslav Federal Court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence handed down against convicted war criminal Andrija Artukovic, rejecting an extraordinary appeal by his lawyers.
Artukovic's lawyers, who cited failing health, can still appeal for clemency from Yugoslavia's collective presidency, the Tanjug news agency reported. Both the Supreme Court of Croatia and the Federal Court of Yugoslavia have rejected earlier appeals.
A former resident of Seal Beach, Calif., the 87-year-old Artukovic was extradited from the United States last Feb. 12. He had lived in Orange County since shortly after entering the United States in 1948 on a false passport. Yugoslav officials say he was interior minister and security chief of the Nazi puppet state of Croatia during World War II.
Zagreb District Court sentenced him to death after Artukovic was found guilty on May 14 of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was held responsible for implementing policies that killed 700,000 Jews, Serbs and Gypsies in Nazi concentration camps.
Son Assails Conviction
"The moment my dad was handed over to the Yugoslavs, that was his death sentence," Radoslav Artukovic said Tuesday in California. The younger Artukovic, a Los Angeles stockbroker, has insisted that his father is innocent. He said his father's lawyers were not permitted to present any defense to the charges during the trial in May.
"An 87-year-old man is facing execution after being found guilty by a kangaroo court," Artukovic said, adding that he was not surprised that Yugoslav officials rejected the appeal.
Artukovic said he has not seen his father since May.
"He didn't know where he was. He thought he was in the U.S.," Artukovic said. He said the Yugoslavs have denied him permission to speak with his father by telephone.
The elder Artukovic, who is suffering from heart trouble and near blindness, is held in a prison hospital in Zagreb. Lawyers Zeljko Olujic and Silvije Degen said in their appeal that Artukovic's health had grown seriously worse since his trial ended in May.
The Federal Court, after reviewing an Oct. 21 hospital report, ruled Tuesday that Artukovic's health has not worsened enough that it would require changing the sentence, Tanjug said.
The report said any deterioration in Artukovic's health corresponds with his age and the "situation he is in," the news agency said.