New bail bid for ex-Bosnian president Ejup Ganic

John Aston,Press Association
Thursday 11 March 2010 15:23

Lawyers acting for a former Bosnian president who was arrested at Heathrow over war crime allegations return to the High Court today in a bid to secure him bail.

Ejup Ganic, 64, a friend of Baroness Thatcher, was detained at the request of the Serbian government and stands accused of killing wounded Bosnian Serb soldiers in 1992 during the Balkan wars.

Lawyers for the academic say moves to make him face trial in Serbia are politically-motivated and his arrest is illegal.

Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice McCombe, sitting at the High Court in London, adjourned the bail request last week to give the Serbian authorities more time to put in evidence to back their war crime allegations and oppose bail.

As last week's hearing took place, thousands of Bosnians protested in front of the British and Serbian embassies in Sarajevo.

Protesters waved Bosnian flags and held banners, accusing Serbia of lying and Britain of siding with it in the legal action.

Dr Ganic, who is being held in Wandsworth prison, was initially refused bail on Wednesday last week at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on the grounds that there was a danger of him absconding.

He made another appearance on Tuesday this week, but was kept in custody pending today's High Court hearing.

He was arrested on March 1 as he went to leave the country after attending 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, a wartime leader who briefly acted as president, and 18 others over an incident in which 42 soldiers from the Yugoslav army were killed at the start of the Balkan war as they retreated from Sarajevo.

A convoy of Yugoslav soldiers, accompanied by UN peacekeepers, was attacked during the retreat from a Bosnian Muslim area of the city.

Serbia says this was in violation of a safe passage pact.

Clare Montgomery QC, representing Dr Ganic, says the allegations have already been rejected by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and accuses the Serbian government of abusing extradition laws for political reasons.

She points out the Serbian moves against Dr Ganic came at the same time as the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for war crimes resumed in The Hague.

Extradition agreements give the Serbian authorities 45 days from the date of arrest to make their extradition request.

Last week, Lord Justice Laws said he "did not like at all" the custodial "limbo" Dr Ganic 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 and must be given more time.

James Lewis QC, appearing for the Crown Prosecution Service, 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.

He said: "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."

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