Ex-Bosnian Serb leader Plavsic released from prison

Former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic, who was jailed for her role in atrocities committed in the Balkan wars, was freed from a Swedish prison on Tuesday after she was granted early release.


AFP - Former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic was freed from a Swedish prison Tuesday and has left the country after the UN war crimes court granted her early release, Swedish prison authorities said.

Swedish media reports said she was bound for Belgrade, though officials in the Scandinavian country have not confirmed that information.

"Plavsic was transported this morning to Arlanda (airport)," Swedish Prison and Probation Service director Lars Nylen said in a statement, adding that she boarded a plane and left the country.

Leading Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported in its online edition that Plavsic's flight was due to land in Belgrade at 2:45 pm (1345 GMT).

Plavsic, 79, was sentenced in February 2003 to 11 years behind bars after she admitted playing a leading role in a campaign of persecution against Croats and Muslims during Bosnia's 1992-95 war that claimed about 100,000 lives and forced some 2.2 million people from their homes.

President of the post-war Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska from July 1996 to November 1998, she is the highest ranking official of the former Yugoslavia to have acknowledged responsibility for atrocities committed in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

She served her sentence at a women's prison in Sweden, where the government last week confirmed she would become eligible for release on Tuesday after serving two-thirds of her term, in accordance with Swedish law.

Her release came on the second day of the genocide trial in The Hague of her predecessor, former Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, who has so far boycotted the hearings.

He has insisted he needs more time to prepare his trial, for which he is conducting his own defence.

Karadzic, 64, is charged with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the Bosnian war. He denies all the charges and faces life imprisonment.

Karadzic was arrested on a Belgrade bus in July last year, posing as a bearded alternative healer after 13 years on the run.

Plavsic surrendered to the UN war crimes tribunal in January 2001 after it had issued an indictment for genocide, extermination, murder, persecution, deportation and inhumane acts.

She struck a plea agreement with prosecutors in October 2002 in which she "admitted to supporting and contributing to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of ethnic populations by force."

The war crimes court announced in September that she would be eligible for early release from Sweden's Hinseberg prison after she expressed remorse and a behavioural report showed she had "exhibited good behaviour" in prison.

"She has participated in the institution's walks and she also occupies herself by cooking and baking," it said.

Plavsic made no official comment before leaving Sweden.

"Biljana Plavsic was happy about being released and that was all she cared about at that moment. She thanked the prison personnel and boarded the plane. What happens after this is up to her to say," Nylen said.

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