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Court Awaits Karadzic Appeal As Belgrade Prepares For Protests

  • RFE/RL

Posters of Radovan Karadzic in downtown Belgrade on July 28

Posters of Radovan Karadzic in downtown Belgrade on July 28

Serbia's special war crimes court is eagerly watching the mail as it awaits a last-minute appeal against the extradition of captured war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic.

The legal team helping to represent the wartime Bosnian Serb leader reportedly mailed the appeal from a remote location just before the July 25 deadline in an attempt to delay Karadzic's extradition until after a large ultranationalist rally to be held in Belgrade on July 29.

One of Karadzic's lawyers, Svetozar Vujacic, was evasive in answering reporters questions about the appeal on July 28, saying that perhaps the letter will "grow a beard and long hair," making it more difficult to find.

"I cannot tell you whether, where, when or how I sent [the appeal] -- that's a strategy of the defense because if I had told you when and from which post office I had sent it, be sure that the appeal would have been rejected on Friday night and Radovan would have been in The Hague the [next] morning," Vujacic said.

While Vujacic argues that a panel of judges can only make a decision on the appeal after taking receipt of it, a spokesman for the Belgrade court dealing with the case said that if the letter doesn't arrive within a "reasonable time frame" the panel will make a ruling.

The dismissal of the appeal would free up the Justice Ministry to sign off on Karadzic's extradition to the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where he will face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in connection with the 1992-96 shelling of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Vujacic believes the panel's decision has already been made. "Everything is possible, when they tell you that the appeal arrived they will tell you it's rejected," he said.

A spokeswoman for The Hague tribunal said that the court is ready to take Karadzic into custody, and is expecting his transfer as soon as possible.

Riot Police To Greet Protesters

In the meantime, the Serbian Radical Party is bussing supporters of captured war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic into Belgrade for a protest this evening that is raising fears of violence.

But the backers of the former Bosnian Serb leader will be met by hundreds of police in riot gear, and the authorities are promising that there will be no repeat of the violence that marred the capital in February after the West's recognition of Kosovo's independence.

Belgrade's chief of police, Slobodan Vukelic, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service that steps were being taken to ensure security in the city.

"In particular, we are going ensure the security of participants of the rally, maybe journalists as well," Vukelic said. "We will secure all important institutions in the city and places in which public security could be endangered."

Radical leader Aleksandar Vucic has said the rally is intended to protest the "dictatorial regime" of Serbian President Boris Tadic, whose pro-Western government is hoping to capitalize on Karadzic's arrest by moving the country closer to the European Union.
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