Croatia postpones corruption trial of ex-PM Ivo Sanader

Croatian ex-Prime Minister Ivo Sanader in court in Zagreb, 28 October
Image caption Mr Sanader was in court in Zagreb when the adjournment was announced

The trial of Croatian ex-Prime Minister Ivo Sanader for corruption over a loan from an Austrian bank in 1995 has been postponed on health grounds.

Ruling that the defendant's ill-health meant the trial in Zagreb could not proceed on Friday, the judge set next Thursday as the new date.

Mr Sanader, 58, is alleged to have received nearly $695,000 (£432,000) for arranging a loan from Hypo bank.

The ex-leader, who was extradited from Austria in July, denies wrongdoing.

He will now undergo a medical examination.

Crutch in court

"The conditions for a trial to be held were not met, the case is adjourned until 3 November," Judge Ivan Turudic ruled as the defendant listened.

The former prime minister arrived in court in a blue long-sleeved T-shirt, AFP news agency reports.

"I apologise for being dressed like this today but I was told I was going to hospital," he told the judge.

He had long suffered "coronary problems", he added. As deputy foreign minister in the mid-1990s, he is said to have facilitated Hypo's entry into the Croatian market.

Croatia was still fighting its war of independence from Yugoslavia, meaning it had trouble accessing the international markets, the BBC's Mark Lowen in Zagreb reports.

The former prime minister is the most high-profile figure arrested in Croatia's recent anti-corruption drive, our correspondent says.

Other anti-corruption investigations Mr Sanader faces include one involving the Hungarian oil firm MOL. He denies wrongdoing.

Croatia is on the brink of EU membership, hoping to join in July 2013. It is mainly pressure from Brussels that has driven the country to tackle its widespread corruption problem.

With Romania and Bulgaria deemed to have joined the bloc before dealing with the issue, the EU is taking a harder line with Croatia, our correspondent adds.

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