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Fair trial reforms after innocent man was sentenced to 40 years in jail

Ajdarić v. Croatia  | 2011

Fair trial reforms after innocent man was sentenced to 40 years in jail

I left the prison the day before my 60th birthday. The next day my daughter wished me happy birthday.
I said to her: "not today, that was yesterday".
She looks at me in wonder and says: "but today is February 7th".
"Yes", I say, "but yesterday, when I was released from prison, I was born again."

Neđo Ajdarić, quoted in Jutarnji Vijesti, February 2013 - © Photo Nezavisne

Background

Neđo Ajdarić was 52 when he was given an unfair trial, wrongly convicted of three murders, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

 There had been no evidence whatsoever linking Mr Ajdarić to the crime, until a prisoner suffering from emotional instability and histrionic personality disorder said that he had heard Mr Ajdarić and another man talking about it. Despite the existence of obvious inconsistencies in the prisoner’s evidence, the prisoner’s unbalanced mental state, and the lack of anything other information linking Mr Ajdarić to the crime, the trial court convicted him.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court noted that the prisoner had suffered from histrionic personality disorder and that he had been contradicted by other witnesses. It said that his evidence should not have been capable of convicting Mr Ajdarić. In these circumstances, the proceedings against Mr Ajdarić had breached his right to a fair trial.

Follow-up

The Constitutional Court changed its case law to highlight the need for courts to properly examine evidence in trials, and for the arguments of the accused to be properly considered.

Mr Ajdarić’s case was re-opened and he was released.