Karadzic to defend himself 'with help of God'

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Radovan Karadzic has decided to conduct his own defence against genocide charges at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague and is convinced he will win his case, his Serbian lawyer said yesterday.

The former Bosnian Serb leader, who disguised himself as a long-haired, bearded, alternative medicine healer before his arrest on Monday by Serbian security forces, requested a shave and haircut in his Belgrade prison cell yesterday, his lawyer Svetozar Vujacic said.

"He looks like his old self, a bit aged," Mr Vujacic said.

Official papers have been prepared for his extradition to the UN court which could come as early as the weekend. Mr Vujacic said Mr Karadzic would formally appeal against the extradition order on Friday, when a legal deadline expires, to allow his family to visit, if they are allowed to leave Bosnia.

"He is going to have a legal team in Serbia but will defend himself during his trial at The Hague," Mr Vujacic said. "He is convinced that, with the help of God, he will win."

Well-informed sources said that Mr Karadzic was provided with a false identity 10 years ago, by the security services who worked for the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. Investigators have discovered that the identity card issued in the name of Dragan Dabic came from the small town of Ruma, about 40 miles west of Belgrade, and that it was an original. They are now trying to discover who provided Mr Karadzic with the Dabic identity and when.

According to Misa Brkic, a prominent Belgrade journalist, there had to be secret service involvement in the creation of his new identity. "It found him a place to work and get involved in private practice, a magazine for him to have a column etc," he said.

Mr Brkic believes that Mr Karadzic's new identity was created by the Serbian secret service. It "enabled him to move freely around Belgrade, even step on you in public transportation buses while you never recognised him as Mr Karadzic or could never pick up the $5m reward" for his capture, he said.

Mr Karadzic had been on the run for 13 years before his capture was announced.

The last war crimes indictee to be handed over to the UN tribunal in June, Stojan Zupljanin, also had an original Serbian identity card, issued in the name of a man who died 10 years ago.

Footage of Karadzic in disguise

Investigators said Mr Karadzic was calm when arrested and immediately confirmed his real identity before the judge. He refused to answer many questions, but said he was sorry he did not "last until the end of the year".

"The Hague tribunal would have been closed by then and I'd be at peace for the rest of my life," he said. The mandate of the court expires at the end of this year.

It also emerged that, in the past month, Mr Karadzic had moved flats four times in Belgrade. He rented several at a time, as safe houses, apparently benefiting from a network of supporters, although it is not certain whether those involved knew who he really was. Only two or three people in Belgrade are believed to have known his identity and their involvement will be investigated.

Serbian officials have denied reports that tips from international intelligence services led to Mr Karadzic's arrest or that they were involved. The capture came days after the new pro-European government changed the director of its intelligence and security agency.

The European Union, which has welcomed the arrest as a milestone towards Serbian EU membership, is to decide after a briefing from the chief prosecutor of the UN court, Serge Brammertz, whether Belgrade could be rewarded by the unfreezing of trade benefits. However, members are divided on the wisdom of softening the EU's position before obtaining the capture of the former Bosnian Serb commander, Ratko Mladic.