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Serbia, The Hague ready for Karadzic transfer

Latest update : 2008-07-29

As Serbian ultra-nationalists gear up to protest Karadzic's transfer to The Hague, Serbia's war crimes tribunal reports that it has yet to receive the appeal of the Serb wartime leader who was arrested last week.

Serbia's war crimes court was on Monday awaiting Radovan Karadzic's appeal against his transfer to a UN tribunal ahead of a protest rally by ultra-nationalists furious about his arrest.
   
"The appeal hasn't arrived yet," Ivana Ramic, the spokeswoman of the Serbian war crimes court, told AFP.
   
Svetozar Vujacic, the lawyer representing Karadzic, said earlier he was confident their ploy to delay the wartime Bosnian Serb leader's transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had worked.
   
Karadzic's brother, Luka, on Sunday confirmed the appeal had been sent from a remote post office at the very last minute required under Serbian law, just before a midnight Friday deadline.
   
Officials say Karadzic, 63, was arrested a week ago in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, after more than a decade on the run from the ICTY disguised as an alternative medicine guru.
   
The wartime Bosnian Serb leader, who stands indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, has ordered his legal team to try to delay his transfer to the tribunal based in The Hague for as long as possible.
   
Ultra-nationalists have staged daily protests in support of Karadzic since his capture, some of them marred by attacks on journalists and chants against Serbia's pro-Western leaders.
   
Speaking at a Belgrade rally closely watched by riot police on Sunday evening, Vujacic said he believed local authorities hoped to transfer Karadzic to the UN court before a large rally organised for Tuesday.
   
"They are doing everything they can in order to carry out the transfer before the protest on Tuesday," the lawyer said, adding: "Mine and Radovan's only goal is that this doesn't happen."
   
Karadzic vanished from public life in 1996, shortly after the ICTY issued an arrest warrant for him.
   
While in hiding, he completely changed his appearance and identity, styling himself as Doctor Dragan Dabic and donning large wire-rimmed glasses and a white Panama hat atop his long white hair and bushy beard.
   
Before his capture on a suburban bus, he had been tracked by 50 Serbian secret service agents for several months, according to a report Monday in the Serbian tabloid Press.
   
His arrest -- greeted with celebration in Sarajevo -- improved the prospects of Serbia joining the European Union, which has set Belgrade's cooperation with the ICTY as a precondition for membership talks.
   
However it has caused a spike in nationalist sentiment in Serbia, where the nationalist opposition is trying to pile pressure on the new pro-European government, accusing it of treachery.
   
The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party, sidelined after May 11 elections, will attempt to mount a show of force against the government at a protest rally in the capital on Tuesday.
   
Karadzic is notably accused of playing a leading role in the 44-month siege of Bosnia's capital Sarajevo and the July 1995 massacre of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, the bloodiest single atrocity in Europe since World War II.
   
Once his appeal is received, a three-judge panel of the Serbian court has three days to decide on its merits before the justice ministry must issue a final order for the transfer of Karadzic to The Hague.
   
On Sunday, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said he was confident that with Karadzic captured, his fugitive former military commander Ratko Mladic would also soon face justice.
   
"We have arrested the number one, there is no reason why we won't arrest the number two," Cvetkovic said in Vienna, referring to their respective positions on the wanted list of the UN war crimes court.
 

Date created : 2008-07-28

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