Frequently asked questions

1. What sentence did Zvonko Busic receive for his offense?

He and his wife, Julienne were found guilty of all charges, and both received life sentences, which was mandatory when a death, intentional or unintentional, results in the commission of an air piracy.  The judge in the case had no choice but to sentence them to life imprisonment.

2. Why were they released if they received life sentences?

In America there are several types of life sentences: 

  • a. “natural life”, which means the prisoner can never be released and must die in prison;
  • b. “simple life”, which means the prisoner must serve ten years before he is eligible to be paroled.
  • c. Early parole eligibility, which was ordered in the Busic case. In 1979, Judge John Bartels changed the simple life sentences to “B-2”, which meant that Zvonko and Julienne Busic could be immediately considered for parole. Therefore, both had the legal possibility of being released on parole from the year 1979 on. (See Documents section, Judge Bartels letters file for further information on this issue)

3. Zvonko Busic served 32 years and Julienne Busic only thirteen.
Why did Zvonko Busic serve 17 years longer if they were both found
guilty of the same offense?

There is no definitive answer to that question.  Some feel it was because Julienne Busic was a woman and a native American, and her husband a foreigner who had “unduly influenced” his wife.  Judge Bartels made comments to this effect on the record. 

Others believe the case became a political issue as Yugoslavia broke apart and various interest groups, both in the United States and in the former Yugoslavia, sought to use Busic as a pawn in diverse efforts.  (For more on this question, please see Press section, Globus-Hudelist file, Documents section, U.S. State Department file, and the Support for Zvonko and Julienne Busic file, Evan Kemp letter). 

After 9-11, many others felt he was being made to pay symbolically for the deeds of others who had not been caught and punished, (and whose views were diametrically opposed to his own).  (See Documents section, U.S. Parole Commission file, Senator Gordon Smith and Rudolf Giuliani letters, and the Terre Haute prison articles in Press file).

4. Is it accurate that Zvonko Busic should have been released,
according to U.S. law, after the maximum of 30 years?

Yes, this is accurate.  The minimum he could have served would have been three years, under the judge’s modification of sentence, and the maximum thirty years. (See Documents section, U.S. Parole Commission file, Parole Board law.)

5. Why was he kept two years longer? 

The Parole Commission violated its own regulations.  According to the law, he must be mandatorily released after thirty years unless “ the Commission determines that he has seriously or frequently violated institution rules and regulations or that there is a reasonable probability that he will commit any Federal, State, or local crime.”  The Parole Board argued the latter, saying that because he continued to minimize his responsibility, he presented a future threat to society.  (See Documents section, U.S. Parole Commission files, “Parole Document denying release of Zvonko Busic”)

6. Is this accurate?

Absolutely not.  In all his oral and written statements to the Parole Commission, from 2003 on, he accepted full responsibility for his actions.  Unfortunately, the Commission had misplaced one such statement in their archives and had lost another. (See Appeal Supplement, 2007, in Documents section, U.S. Parole Commission). Even after being supplied with the statements from Busic’s attorney, they again denied Busic’s release, using the same justification that he had not accepted responsibility. (See Documents section, U.S. Parole Commission files, “Zvonko Busic statements to Parole Commission, 2003, 2004, 2006, and Denial of Parole document).


7. Why did Busic leave a bomb in a locker if he never intended to harm anybody?

Since there were no real weapons on the plane, he felt it was necessary to convince the authorities that there were, by leaving explosives on the ground in an isolated locker.  He wanted to ensure that the leaflets used in the action would be published in the major media, which was the only demand of the group. The bomb was constructed in such a way that the simple act of switching it from “on” to “off’ would have rendered it harmless, but despite the fact that Busic gave full instructions and information about its construction to the experts, it still mysteriously exploded, over four hours after being transported, without incident. to the detonation site. Conflicting testimony relating to the handling of the explosives led to a lawsuit filed by the policeman’s widow against the head of the bomb squad, Terence McTigue, and the NYPD (To see the lawsuit documents and commentary on this issue, please refer to the Documents section, “Murray lawsuit” files, “Judge Bartels” letters file, and Press section, interviews file).

8. Throughout the years, there have been allegations in the media that
Zvonko Busic was involved in an unsolved bombing in 1975 at the
LaGuardia airport, the most recent after Busic was finally released in 2008.

Many groups were suspected at that time, including the right wing Jewish Defense League, the Puerto Rican FALN, and others, but there is no evidence whatsoever that Busic was involved, according to several FBI officials in charge of the past investigations.  An excerpt from one such letter written to the Parole Commission by a former official of the FBI:

 “The Laguardia case remains a mystery, but there is no evidence to suggest that Busic was involved in that incident. To deny his parole based upon any taint from that case is unjustified, and I will personally attest, if called upon, to assure that he would pose no future threat to society. From my personal information, he would return to Croatia upon release. Granting him parole or at the least transfer under the treaty to Croatia would serve the interests of justice and right a wrongful accusation, if in fact there has been such a false perception in his case.” 

(See Defamation of Busic on Court TV section for more documents on this issue).

 Most of the allegations against Busic, to the media and the U.S. Parole Commission, have involved the same Terence McTigue who was named in the Murray lawsuit, and the NYPD.  U.S. Parole Commission reports cite the FBI investigator’s conclusion regarding Busic’s involvement:.


And in a report by a senior Parole Commission Examiner dated July 16, 2004, there is this conclusion re Terence McTigue’s credibility (original report in the custody of Busic attorneys and the U.S. Parole Commission): 

The Parole Commission examiner urged in  the same report that “the testimony provided by the victim witness McTigue be totally disregarded as to “statements regarding alleged additional criminal conducts committed by the prisoner Zvonko Busic.”


9. After Zvonko Busic’s release, there were attempts made in some foreign media by two Yugoslavs, D. Ugresic and S. Drakulic and various others,
to link Busic to fascist groups from the Second World War. 
Is this accurate?

No.  Busic was born in 1946, so he cannot have links to groups that ceased to exist after the war ended in 1945.  Nonetheless, Busic has stated on several occasions, in the media and live interviews, that he opposes extremism from the left or the right, that exhibiting or glorifying symbols or icons from the Second World War are damaging to the Republic of Croatia and her image in the world, and that those who engage in this are either over-emotional, naïve, or simply “ill-intentioned”, and do not have Croatia’s best interests at heart.  (stated on, among other programs, “Radio Nasice”, and “Opasne veze”, moderator Tihomir Dujmovic). 

Ivan Zvonimir Cicak (former student strike leader during the “Croatian Spring” and political prisoner, past president of the Croatian Helsinki Watch, and political commentator) was one of many media commentators who rebutted S. Drakulic and her fabrications about Zvonko Busic in “The Guardian”:

All Drakulic's lies


Jutarnji List, September 6, 2008


„Slavenka Drakulic published a text about Croatia in „The Guardian which was rife with lies and fabrications.   She is „concerned“ about „human rights, freedom and the character of Croatia“.  Drakulic was not conerned about these values during the Communist times.  She lived in Yugoslavia, enjoying all her Communist privileges.  She was not among those signing the appeal to abolish „verbal crimes“ ( the return of which she wholeheartedly supports today).  She never protested the imprisonment of her school colleagues.  She never supported Croatian independence.  At the beginning of the war, she left Yugoslavia and Croatia.  Only after the war did she write about the victims of war crimes.  Unlike her and those like her, I fought for human rights during the Communist era and collected facts during the war on the victims of human rights violations and crimes. So I have a moral right and obligation to respond to her article…


…Writing about the homecoming of Zvonko Busic, Drakulic states that he was “welcomed by pro-Ustashi supporters who gave him the official fascist greeting..“  That's a lie.  Busic was greeted by about 200 supporters, led by the former Vice President of the Social-Democratic liberal government, Drazen Budisa, who, like the party, couldn't be farther from pro-Ustashi.“.





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