Film lifts lid on Cold War-era spying activities in Australia
by Matthew Raggatt - 6 April 2014

AN EXTRA layer of Canberra's Cold War-era spy history is set to be peeled back by a new documentary looking at foreign intelligence agents on Australian soil.
The film, UDBa Down Under, features long-time federal parliament electrician Don Dimov and considers the role Yugoslav secret police, known as the UDBa, played in infiltrating pro-independence groups of Croatian and Macedonian activists from the 1970s.
Mr Dimov said he suspected political documents were stolen from his suitcase at a Paris airport - en route to a Macedonian liberation group conference in 1977 - because of a tip-off from UDBa spies at a meeting of the Queanbeyan branch, of which he was a senior figure.
''The meetings were done not in public to know who goes to Europe, but just the organisation, and as soon as I arrive there [with two colleagues], bang, our suitcases were gone,'' he said.
The suitcases mysteriously arrived at the men's next destination in West Germany, minus the party platform and its official newspaper.
Mr Dimov's ASIO file indicates his group - the Movement for the Liberation and Unification of Macedonia, known by its Macedonian acronym DOOM - was viewed as non-violent and of minor security interest.
Mr Dimov's story adds to the intrigue surrounding the activities of the Yugoslav embassy, which was particularly focused on the more aggressive Croatian opposition.
Filmmaker Sasha Uzunov said his documentary, due for release in June, would explain the manipulation of Australian-Croat activists to shore up support for the multi-ethnic Yugoslav state.
''My premise is that in the '70s and '80s, there was a phoney kind of terrorism that was occurring - perpetrated by Yugoslavian intelligence,'' Uzunov said. ''The endgame was to make the Croats look like terrorists … Yugoslavia needed to have foreign enemies.''
The Canberra Times' editor-at-large, Jack Waterford, who also features in the documentary, said funding by emigre populations for propaganda and terrorist activity in communist Yugoslavia explained some of the spying actions.
''The Yugoslavs would say - and quite accurately - it was vital to their national security, because in a number of cases, particularly in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were actual armed incursions by Croatian emigres, some from Australia,'' Waterford said.
''What was never clear, however, was whether [Yugoslav intelligence] was engaged in provocation work among those associations.''
A Fairfax Media investigation revealed new material in 2012 supporting the view that a UDBa operative set up the six Croatian tradesmen found guilty of planning terrorist activities in Sydney in 1979.
Croatian and Yugoslav tensions were also behind the overnight raid of Canberra's ASIO office in 1973 by attorney-general Lionel Murphy, two weeks before a visit by the Yugoslav prime minister.
Team Uzunov report: