Former Bosnian president arrested at Heathrow

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The Independent Online

A former president of Bosnia has been arrested in Britain after being accused of involvement in the slaughter of wounded soldiers at the start of the Bosnian War.

Ejup Ganic, 63, was stopped by police at Heathrow Airport yesterday following a request by the Serbian authorities to extradict him.

Professor Ganic is suspected by the Serbians of involvement in a massacre of soldiers who were withdrawing from Sarajevo in May 1992 during an agreed ceasefire.

The soldiers were part of of the Yugoslav National Army and they were attacked by members of the Army of the Republic Bosnia and Herzegovina on the orders of senior Bosnians. Up to 42 troops are said to have died in the Dobrovoljacka Street Attack with a further 71 injured and more than 200 others taken prisoner.

Professor Ganic is just one of 19 members of the Bosnian wartime leadership who have been named as involved in the slaughter which has long rankled among Serbs. He was a vice-president during the war and was later appointed president.

It was unclear yesterday why the arrest took place yesterday as Mr Ganic is believed to have travelled abroad from Bosnia many times since the end of the 1992-5 war. His foreign travel has included at least one trip to Britain, in 2008 when he visited the University of Buckingham to receive an honourary degree.

However, it is thought the Serb authorities, having learnt of his intention to fly to Heathrow, felt British police were unlikely to refuse a properly worded extradiction request and decided the opportunity was too good to pass up. It is expected to be a popular move among Serb voters.

The alleged massacre took place early in the Bosnian War which had broken out when the Bosnians declared independence from the Serb-led former Yugoslavia, prompting Bosnian-Serb forces to attack Sarajevo.

The attack began the seige of Sarajevo, which lasted 43 months and cost 14,000 lives, but at the start there were some Yugoslav National Army troops stationed inside the city. It was agreed with the Bosnian leadership that they would be given safe passage out of the city but while the column made its way out it was attacked.

Professor Ganic has previously denied the allegations that the Yugoslav troops were attacked in breach of the geneva Convention. He indicated the attack was launched to rescue Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian president, who had been seized by at the city’s airport earlier in the day.

He said last year when he and other Bsonian leaders were indicted by the Serb authorities: "For Serbia, anyone who had defended our country needs to be arrested. Serbia has been launching such stories for years."

Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Extradiction Unit carried out the arrest of Professor Ganic at 2pm and he was subsequently taken to City Of Westminster Magistrates’ Court where he was remanded in custody for four weeks.

The police said in a statement: “Ejup Ganic, 63, was arrested on behalf of the Serbian authorities under a provisional extradition warrant alleging 'conspiracy to murder with other named people and breach of the Geneva Convention, namely killing wounded soldiers under section 1 of the Geneva Convention Act 1957.'”

A full extradiction hearing will only be arranged once the Serbian authorities have provided further details supporting their request. "A judge will then consider whether there are any bars to the extradition," said an official.

Professor Ganic is just one of several of Bosnia’s wartime leaders whose arrest and trial has been demanded by the Serbs for their alleged involvement in the Dobrovoljacka Street Attack . The Foreign Office confirmed it was aware of the arrest but refused to comment further on the grounds that the case is now before the courts.

During the Seige of Sarajevo Professor Ganic escaped using a tunnel out of the city and travelled to Geneva where he met Margaret Thatcher and pleaded for her help.

The former Bosnian vice-president is professor of engineering and one of the founders of the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology. One of his reasons for establishing the university at Sarajevo was his belief that education would help avoid a repeat of the Bosnian War. The War was ended by the US-brokered Dayton peace accord.