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Bosnia Arrests Croatian Deputy Convicted Of War Crimes

Branimir Glavas (center) was arrested on May 13.

Branimir Glavas (center) was arrested on May 13.

SARAJEVO (Reuters) -- Police in Bosnia have arrested a Croatian member of parliament who fled there shortly before being sentenced to jail for war crimes against Serbian civilians, and handed him over to the Bosnian state prosecutor.

Branimir Glavas, who also has Bosnian citizenship, cannot be sent to Croatia as the countries have no extradition agreement.

The police had acted on an international warrant Croatia issued on May 12, said a police spokesman. The Bosnian state prosecutor's office said it had yet to decide how to proceed with the case.

A Croatian court sentenced Glavas on May 8 to 10 years in prison for the torture and killing of Serbian civilians during Croatia's 1991-95 war of independence.

Shortly before that, Glavas fled to Bosnia. He has Bosnian origins and was granted Bosnian citizenship last year.

The western Balkan countries do not have agreements on extradition and convicts from Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia have increasingly used this legal loophole to avoid jail.

Bosnian Security Minister Tarik Sadovic said the proceedings were probably in line with the law, but that this was "not good either for Bosnia or Croatia."

"Such issues are unacceptable and Bosnia should resolve them through bilateral agreements with Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro," Sadovic told a news conference.

Ante Jelavic, a former chairman of Bosnia's Presidency, fled to Croatia when he was found guilty of abuse of office, and Bosnian Serb war crimes convict Radovan Stankovic escaped from prison and fled to Serbia. Both men had dual citizenship.

Glavas is the first senior Croatian official to be convicted of war crimes. He was accused of ordering members of a unit to abduct, torture, and murder Serbs in the eastern city of Osijek in late 1991, when he commanded the city's defense forces.

Glavas has denied any wrongdoing and staged hunger strikes to protest against his detention and the trial. He denounced the proceedings as politically motivated and commissioned by the ruling HDZ party, which expelled him in 2006.

Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia all have ambitions to join the European Union. Their effectiveness in punishing war crimes committed during the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s is a criterion the EU is monitoring to assess their suitability.