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Wife's Plea To Top Bosnian Serb Fugitive Stuns

29 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The wife of war crimes indictee and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appealed to her husband in a broadcast carried by several regional television stations yesterday to surrender to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal.

Bosnian and international media said the appeal came as a surprise to regional political, military, and journalistic communities, while a EUFOR commander suggested it was a logical consequence of the 60-year-old's decision to evade trial.

An adviser to Serbian President Boris Tadic, Jovan Simic, said the situation is "very serious" and that "we will probably know [Karadzic's] answer very soon."

Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic stressed that their family can no longer live with the incessant pressure from unnamed international and local authorities seeking his arrest for .

"Our family is under constant pressures from all sides," Zelen-Karadzic said in an emotional appeal. "Our lives and existence are threatened. That is why I have to make a choice between my loyalty to you and toward my children and grandchildren. And I have made it."

She stressed that "it is painful and difficult for me to plead with you. However, I am pleading with you with all my heart and soul to surrender."

The couple's daughter, Sonja, told Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA that the interview was authentic, adding, however, that her mother will not make any further statements, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported.

In Belgrade, Radovan's brother Luka said his sister-in-law's statement is evidence of the "great pressure" placed on the family by "those who claim to speak in the name of democracy and human rights."

But in Sarajevo, EUFOR commander British Major General David Leakey told Bosnian television that Zelen-Karadzic's announcement was no surprise considering the pressure that Bosnian Serb authorities and the family have been under. "Her appeal does not surprise me at all," Leakey said. "Radovan Karadzic has deserted his wife, and that is very upsetting for the family." Leakey called Karadzic a "disgrace for his country" because he reportedly fled with large sums of money that could have been used for pensions and other public purposes.

Karadzic's record as a purported war criminal from April 1992 is based on the Bosnian Serb "ethnic-cleansing" campaigns, especially in eastern Bosnia and in the Banja Luka region, as well as on the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, crimes in which former Bosnian Serb commander and fellow fugitive from the Hague-based war crimes tribunal General Ratko Mladic allegedly shares responsibility. Both men face charges of genocide and other atrocities.

Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic responded to Zelen-Karadzic's appeal by saying she should have added that the Serbian state and people are also threatened by his refusal to face justice, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported.

Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Prvoslav Davinic said that Zelen-Karadzic's message is probably linked to an unspecified attempt by the international community to negotiate a surrender in agreement with his family.

Rasim Ljajic, who chairs Serbia and Montenegro's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, told the private Beta news agency on 29 July that Karadzic's surrender would greatly demoralize those people hiding and protecting fellow indictee Mladic. Ljajic added that the decision is Karadzic's alone to make and will not be ordered by any third party.

A spokesman for former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia said that it is "in the interest of the state and nation" for indictees to surrender to the tribunal voluntarily, adding that the indictees themselves must decide what is right.

Also see these recent stories:

"Balkans: Karadzic And Mladic Are 'Everywhere But In The Hague'"

"Moving Beyond Dayton"

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