Karadzic begins his game of cat and mouse

The captured Bosnian Serb leader could turn war crimes trial into farce
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The Independent Online

Radovan Karadzic's defence lawyers lodged an appeal this weekend against the former Bosnian Serb leader's extradition to the war crimes court at The Hague, but the manner in which they did so made it clear that the fugitive will do his best to turn the proceedings into a farce.

Svetozar Vujacic, a member of Karadzic's defence team, confirmed yesterday that the appeal had been filed, but said: "I cannot say anything about the appeal, where or when I filed it or what is in it. Had I talked about it, the appeal would already have been rejected and Radovan Karadzic would already be on his way to The Hague."

According to Belgrade newspapers, however, the appeal was sent from a rural post office just before the deadline of midnight on Friday. Under the rules, proof of postage is sufficient, even if the appeal has not yet arrived. Karadzic has said that, like his mentor, the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, he intends to conduct his own defence at The Hague. He will face 11 charges, 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 the Second World War.

Mr Vujacic predicted that because of the legal procedure Karadzic would not be extradited before Wednesday or Thursday, but in the meantime the lawyer has filed a lawsuit against Karadzic's alleged abductors. The Bosnian Serb leader, whose military commander, Ratko Mladic, remains at large, was arrested last week after nearly 13 years under cover. Although he was thought to have been hiding in the mountainous area spanning the border between Bosnia and Montenegro, the qualified psychiatrist turned out to have been working as an alternative healer in Belgrade for the past eight years.

Serbia's Vecernje Novosti newspaper yesterday published an interview with Karadzic's nephew, Dragan Karadzic, claiming he was the only one who knew his fugitive uncle had assumed the false identity of Dragan Dabic. "I was his only link to the family and to the outside world," he was quoted as saying, adding that he regularly met with Karadzic, helping him rent apartments and bringing him supplies.

The sudden arrest of Karadzic has heightened speculation that Mladic could be next, but he may be protected by his connections to Serbia's military establishment. Karadzic was seized only after the pro-European government of Boris Tadic had replaced its intelligence chief. Close ties remain among ethnic Serbs who were active servicemen in the former Yugoslavia. Most have retired in Serbia and are believed to maintain a network that hides a man they still regard as a war hero.

There have been few indications of Mladic's whereabouts since the war crimes tribunal brought charges against him. Most of the relevant information remains in the archives of the Military Security Agency (VBA), which claims it "reconstructed" his movements until 2006, when he "completely disappeared". Mladic lived more or less openly in Belgrade from 1996 until 2000, while Milosevic was still in power. In 2000, Mladic was seen at a football game in Belgrade and, before that, at his son's wedding in the capital.

The VBA admitted that until 2002 he lived in the Belgrade suburb of Banovo Brdo, in a house still occupied by his wife and son. He was on the military payroll until his retirement in 2002.

In 2006, 11 aides of Mladic were arrested in Belgrade. They were involved in renting flats for him, moving him around the capital, and providing him with mobile phones and daily supplies. One admitted his mother had cooked for Mladic. The group went on trial, but the case has been adjourned due to the illness of several of the accused.

Analysts believe that Karadzic's support network probably also decayed after Milosevic fell from power in 2000. Gradually he was left to manage on his own, but it was only after the new Serbian government came to power earlier this month that he was arrested. The new head of the Serbian Security and Intelligence Agency, Sasa Vukadinovic, "only had to check the drawers and use the stuff that already existed", said an analyst, Misa Brkic.

An egocentric, Karadzic could not resist the temptation of appearing in public, analysts said. His guru-like appearance helped, and his involvement in alternative medicine provided him with audiences of 300 to 400 people all over Serbia. "He could not live without an audience and applause," said Leposava Kron of Serbia's Criminology Institute.

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