The New York Times, July 25, 2008
1976 Hijacker Returns to Freedom in Croatia, Leaving a Wake of Outrage
After more than three decades in United States prisons — a term punctuated by a brief escape and recapture — a 62-year-old Croatian independence fighter was returned to his native country on Thursday, having served his time for a 1976 hijacking and a bombing that killed a police officer.
The fighter, Zvonko Busic, led a group that planted a bomb at Grand Central Terminal that later exploded, killing a city police officer, Brian J. Murray. Mr. Busic left the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind., boarded a plane in Chicago and touched down in Zagreb about 2:20 p.m. on Thursday, officials said.
“Croatian immigration officials boarded the plane, and they escorted him out,” said Pat A. Reilly, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement who said that three agents delivered Mr. Busic to his home country. “He is a free man. There was quite a crowd there.”
In contrast to that exultation, Mr. Busic’s release left a trail of bitterness here.
The news last week that he had been granted parole on his life sentence after serving about 31 years upset Officer Murray’s widow, Kathleen. It also outraged Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, a personal friend of one of the three other officers wounded when the bomb planted at Grand Central — fashioned from dynamite placed inside a two-quart cast-iron cooking pot — exploded at the bomb squad’s demolition range in the Bronx.
Mrs. Murray said she wished she had been given a chance to speak to officials from the United States Parole Commission, who she said failed to keep her informed.
On Monday, Senator Charles E. Schumer sent a letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, asking him to investigate the way the parole was allowed to go through and to let relatives of the victims and those in the New York Police Department be heard in the case.
“Unfortunately, the Parole Commission made a serious mistake,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “Now that Mr. Busic is out of the country, it may be too late to undo this error in procedure and judgment.”
Terence G. McTigue, a retired police lieutenant who was blinded in the left eye and lost two fingers of his left hand in the blast, in addition to suffering hearing loss and facial disfigurement, said he was shocked by the developments.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mr. McTigue, a sergeant in the bomb squad in 1976, said in a phone interview while traveling in Honolulu. “I am devastated that we have not had a chance, after all these years, to have one more session for the victims to appeal to some sense of justice.”
He added, “He gets to go home, and we all suffer for it.”
Ms. Reilly said that to her knowledge, Mr. Busic was not facing any criminal charges in Croatia. “Our interest is in making sure he never enters a community in the United States again as a free man.”