Saturday, July 26, 2008

Paper: Karadzic lawyer tries to stop extradition

BELGRADE, Serbia - Radovan Karadzic's lawyer filed a last-minute appeal against extradition of the former Bosnian Serb leader to the U.N. war crimes court in the Netherlands, a leading Serbian daily reported Saturday.

The newspaper Politika quoted Karadzic's attorney Svetozar Vujacic as saying he lodged the motion late Friday, apparently to stall the handover of his client to the tribunal in The Hague.

Vujacic, however on Saturday, still refused to confirm or deny whether he had filed the appeal.

"Under Karadzic's explicit instructions, I cannot say anything," Vujacic told reporters in front of Serbia's war crimes court where Karadzic is being held.

The appeal was mailed from a post office, Vujacic was quoted as saying by Politika, but he declined to say whether he did it in Belgrade or from elsewhere in Serbia so the document "wouldn't immediately be taken" to the court handling Karadzic's extradition.

The Karadzic defense team had until midnight Friday to lodge a formal appeal.

Karadzic faces 11 charges at The Hague tribunal, including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide, for allegedly masterminding the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica — Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Once judges decide on the appeal in the Serb court handling Karadzic, the case will be handed over to the Serbian government, which issues the final extradition order.

On Friday, Vujacic said he planned to mail Karadzic's appeal five minutes before post offices closed at 8 p.m. and that the move was part of his "defense strategy." He predicted that Karadzic would not be extradited before Wednesday.

More than a decade on the run
Karadzic had been a fugitive for over a decade before he was arrested. Government officials say he was captured Monday, while Vujacic claims Karadzic was apprehended last week on a Belgrade bus and held incommunicado by unknown kidnappers for three days.

Vujacic has filed a lawsuit against Karadzic's alleged abductors. Responding to the lawsuit, a prosecutor spoke to Karadzic about the claims Friday, Vujacic said.

Vujacic also says his client plans to defend himself against U.N. genocide charges, just as his mentor, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, did. Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial on genocide charges.

Nationalist anger
In Serbia, Karadzic's arrest has sparked nationalist anger.

Several hundred ultranationalists — chanting Karadzic's name and denouncing Serbian President Boris Tadic — marched Friday for the fourth straight day of protests in downtown Belgrade in support of Karadzic.

The demonstrators briefly scuffled with riot police and hurled burning torches at the Belgrade City Council building.