Bail delay for former Bosnian president held over war crime claims

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The Independent Online

A bail application made by a former Bosnian president who was arrested at Heathrow over war crime allegations was adjourned by the High Court today to obtain more evidence.

Ejup Ganic, 63, a friend of Baroness Thatcher, was detained on Monday on charges of killing wounded Bosnian Serb soldiers during the Balkan wars.

His family and lawyers say the charges against him and moves to make him stand trial in Serbia are politically-motivated and his arrest is illegal.

Clare Montgomery QC, appearing for Dr Gunic, argued that continuing to hold the distinguished academic in prison would risk "making a mockery of justice".

But Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice McCombe, sitting at the High Court in London, adjourned the bail request and asked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to put in further evidence expanding on the reasons why Dr Ganic is wanted by the Serbian authorities.

Dr Ganic was initally refused bail on Wednesday at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on the grounds that there was a danger of him absconding. His lawyers renewed the bail application at the High Court today.

The statesman and scholar was arrested while visiting the UK for a degree ceremony at the University of Buckingham, which is partnered with the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, where he is president.

The judges were told the university vice-chancellor, Dr Terence Kealey, was offering a £25,000 bail surety, while "a well wisher" had provided a £300,000 security.

Last year a Belgrade court indicted Dr Ganic and 18 others over their alleged roles when 42 soldiers were killed at the start of the Bosnian war in 1992.

A convoy of Yugoslav soldiers, accompanied by UN peacekeepers, were attacked as they retreated from a Bosnian Muslim area of the city.

Serbia says this was in violation of a safe passage pact. Dr Ganic has denied any involvement.

Ms Montgomery told the court that the Serbian government, which has yet to issue a formal extradition request, was abusing the extradition process.

She argued the Serbians knew that the whole of the evidence gathered by the Belgrade court had been considered by independent lawyers from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and concluded that it disclosed no offence by Dr Ganic.

Dr Ganic's arrest was politically-motivated, she argued. It had occurred at the same time as the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for war crimes resumed in The Hague.

She said: "There is an overwhelming case for granting bail."

After hearing that Dr Ganic could be held for up to 45 days in Wandsworth Prison pending Serbia making its extradition request, she said that would risk making a mockery of justice.

James Lewis QC, appearing for the CPS, told the judges that Dr Ganic had been arrested on a provisional arrest warrant issued under the European Convention on Extradition, to which both the UK and Serbia were signatories.

"The allegations against him are grave and serious. There is a fear that there is an irresistible temptation for him to abscond to Bosnia because, if the English courts find the Serbian request is well founded and in accordance with the 2003 Extradition Act, he will be extradited to Serbia.

"It does appear he doesn't have a great deal of faith in the Serbian system."

Mr Lewis confirmed that there was no extradition request as yet, and the Serbian authorities had 45 days, from March 3, to produce one.

Adjourning the case to next Thursday, Lord Justice Laws said he "did not like at all" the custodial "limbo" Dr Gunic was currently in.

But, in relation to bail, it was likely that neither the CPS nor the Serbian authorities had appreciated they would be required to provide evidence at short notice to support their case against Dr Ganic, said the judge.

They would be given more time to do so.