Zvonko Bušić (23 January 1946 – 1 September 2013) is a terrorist, mastermind of the 1976 hijacking of TWA Flight 355 and a bombing at Grand Central Station in New York. For this crime he was sentenced to the mandatory minimum term of life imprisonment. He spent 32 years in prison before being released on parole in July 2008.
Background[change | change source]
Bušić was born in Gorica, a village in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, and finished high school in Imotski. At the age of 20, he emigrated to Vienna. In Vienna, three years later, in 1969, he met the American student, Julienne Eden Schultz, who was studying German there and who soon thereafter became involved in the activities of the Croatian emigration. In coordination with Zvonko Bušić, she and a friend traveled to Zagreb and threw anti-Yugoslav leaflets on Republic Square, after which they were arrested and imprisoned. After release, Julienne returned to Vienna and in 1972, Julienne and Zvonko married in Frankfurt. Later they moved to the U.S. where he became a member and leader of the Croatian terrorist group called Croatian National Resistance.
Hijacking and bombing[change | change source]
A group of Croatian terrorists made up of Zvonko and his wife, Julienne Bušić, Petar Matanić, Frane Pešut and Slobodan Vlašić hijacked a commercial Trans World Airlines plane on September 10, 1976. It was Boeing 727 Flight 355, heading from New York City to Chicago. The mastermind of this terrorist group, Zvonko Bušić delivered a sealed letter to the pilot, Captain Carey. The letter informed the Captain that the airplane had been hijacked. It said that the hijackers had five gelignite bombs, and that a bomb had been planted in a locker across from the Commodore Hotel on 42nd Street in New York with the further instructions that the U.S. authorities should follow. The hijackers demanded heading the plane in the direction of London. Their ultimate demands, given in the instructions, were:
- First, copies of a "Declaration of the Croatian Liberation Forces" must appear in their entirety in the next day morning's edition of the following newspapers: New York Times, all three editions of Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald Tribune, and Washington Post. This declaration was written by a Croatia's dissident, Bruno Bušić.
- Second, at least one third of each propaganda text must be printed on the first page of the first section. The remainder in the first section.
- Third, through a prearranged code word, they should hear if these demands had been met by the next day deadline. If they had not been met, a second timed bomb which is likewise in a highly busy location should be activated. In the event these texts were printed as per instructions, this device would be deactivated.
- Fourth, the fate of many people hanged in the balance if any attempts whatsoever were made to circumvent their instructions.
The terrorists' first demand was that thousands of copies of a "Declaration of the Croatian Liberation Forces" be scattered from the air over New York, Chicago, Montreal, Paris, London, and the site of a popular festival in Croatia. This declaration was written for this purposes by a Croatia's dissident, Bruno Bušić.
The plane took refueling stop in Montreal, and flew to Paris, France. During the new refueling stop in Newfoundland, the terrorist agreed to release thirty passengers. Bušić reminded Captain Carey that the aircraft could be blown up at any time if the demands were not met and that the passengers released at Newfoundland, if failed to distribute leaflets as ordered, the remaining passengers' fate would be on their consciences.
In Paris, the hijackers got information that their demands had been met. So they surrendered to the French police, which extradited them to the United States. During efforts to deactivate the explosives four hours later at the detonation site, American policeman Brian Murray died, and three other officers were wounded.
Trial, imprisonment, and release[change | change source]
Zvonko Bušić was charged with and convicted of air piracy resulting in death, which carried a mandatory life sentence. Three years after the trial, Judge John Bartels declared Bušić eligible for parole after Dec. 31 1979.
On April 17, 1987 Bušić escaped from the Otisville Correctional Institution, a medium-security Federal prison in Orange County, N.Y. Two days later, Bušić was caught and surrendered peacefully.
On June 13, 1989, Bartels wrote a letter-opinion to the U.S. Parole Commission, in which he stated that the death of the police officer was partly due to the police's negligence and that he had no recommendation to the Commission nor objection to Bušić's release. However, the Commission rejected this parole.
His second request for parole was denied in 2006, after service of 30 years, although the others in the group had already been free for at least 17 years. After this parole denial, Croatian government along with the Croatian Helsinki Committee, launched a campaign to secure his release on humanitarian grounds, arguing that Bušić had served out his sentence and therefore should be released.
Bušić spent his last two years of imprisonment at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, transferred there from Allenwood, Pennsylvania.
Croatian National Resistance (Otpor) idealized Bušićes and their gang. Marin Sopta, the former North American Otpor leader, said: "The Bušićes were our heroes. They did more to promote the Croatian cause than anyone else". Sopta visited Zvonko Bušić regularly when he was serving time in Pennsylvania.
Bušić was granted parole in July 2008 and turned over to immigration authorities for deportation proceedings. A condition of his parole was that he could not return to the U.S.
Reactions on Bušić’s release[change | change source]
Freeing this terrorist from a life sentence and shipping him to his homeland caused the disgust of relatives of the city cop he murdered more than 30 years ago.
Lt. Terence McTigue, who was blinded in the blast that killed Murray, had spoken against the release of Bušić and his crew at earlier parole hearings but, he said, he was never notified of the last, fateful one. McTigue saw this event as a political favor done for the Croatian government and said, "It is like killing Brian Murray and injuring me all over again." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) protested Bušić's release without hearing from the victims, to Attorney General Michael Mukasey.
Zvonko Bušić had been the object of suspicion of many of those who looked into the La Guardia bombing which happened on December 29 1975. The suspicion was raised by Lt. McTigue, Edwin T. Dreher, who, as a deputy police chief at the time, was put in charge of solving this case, Frank McDarby, a detective who interrogated Zvonko Bušić in an F.B.I. office 33 years ago; the crime writer Kevin F. McMurray, who spoke with Zvonko Bušić for three hours in 1997 in a visitors’ room at the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pa.; and Robert K. Tanenbaum, a former prosecutor from the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Each of them reviewed this case anew and wondered anew if Zvonko Bušić escaped punishment for one of the biggest unsolved terrorist acts in the USA. Zvonko Bušić denied any involvement in the La Guardia bombing. But Lt. McTigue was struck by the similarities in the two bombings:
"Both bombs were in a public locker in a transportation facility, a few days after a holiday, and both were large and heavy," Mr. McTigue said. He noted that both devices utilized dynamite and "a 9-volt battery, possibly for a lantern."
Death[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
- Encyclopedia of world crime: criminal justice, criminology, and law enforcement, Volume 1, Jay Robert Nash (editor), CrimeBooks, 1990, page 560
- In the camera's eye: news coverage of terrorist events by Yonah Alexander and Robert G. Picard; Brassey's (U.S.), 1991 page 49
- The federal reporter, Volume 592,1979, page 16
- "Stranica nije pronađena. - NACIONAL.HR".
- Homeland calling: exile patriotism & the Balkan wars by Paul Hockenos; Publisher: Cornell University Press, 2003
page 23: Otpor, banned at the time in Germany for terrorist activities, was a conspiratorial ultra-nationalist group that operated in a murky gray zone between legitimate emigre functions and a thuggish underworld
page 65: Busic was a prominent Otpor loyalist and leader of the North America branch in early 1970.
- Hokenos 2003, page 65
- http://cases.justia.com/us-court-of-appeals/F2/592/13/258617/ Second Circuit Court of Appeals Decision
- Terrorism on American soil: a concise history of plots and perpetrators from the famous to the forgotten by Joseph T. McCann, Sentient Publications, 2006 pages 123-130
- New York Times, April 4, 1979, section 2, page 4, column 6, Wolfgang Saxon. New York Times Article Abstract
- Hijacker of '76 T.W.A. Flight Burrows out of Federal Prison, New York Times, April 18, 1987 
- McFadden, Robert D. (19 April 1987). "Escaped Hijacker Surrenders Peacefully" – via NYTimes.com.
- HHO u operaciji oslobađanja Zvonka Bušića, Nacional weekly newspaper, Zagreb July 30, 2007. 
- Hockenos 2003, page 71
- Croatian Leader of 1976 Hijacking Is Granted Parole, but Faces Deportation, New York Times, July 19, 2008 
- Kin of slain cop rage after Croat terrorist Zvonko Bušić is freed, sent packing, article in Daily News as of July 24, 2008. 
- Terrorist’s Release Reopens Wound of Unsolved Bombing, article in New York Times as of August 10, 2008 
- http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-zvonko-busic-20130907-story.htmlZvonko Busic dies at 67; served U.S. prison time for '76 TWA hijacking