Prague, 29 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- With tears welling in her eyes and hands clasped before her as if in prayer, Ljiljana Karadzic squeezed out the words: "It's painful and difficult for me to ask you this but, nevertheless, with all my heart and soul I beg you to surrender. It will be a sacrifice for us and our family."
An agonizing decision for a woman who was herself an influential figure among the Bosnian Serb leaders who fought the Bosnian war of 1992-95. Until now she has remained defiant in the face of her husband's detractors and poured scorn on the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
But, she said, in a direct address to her husband, Radovan Karadzic, there was now no other way.
"In the hope that you are alive and well and able to make decisions by yourself, I beg you to take this decision and do it for the sake of all of us," she said. "In all my despair and powerlessness, it is the only thing I can do. I beg you."
The family, she went on, was under pressure from all sides. Their lives and property were being threatened in every way and they were living in a constant atmosphere of concern, pain, and suffering. She had had to make a choice, she said, between loyalty to her husband and to their children and grandchildren.
Why, though, has she chosen this moment to call on the former Bosnian Serb leader to give himself up?
"There's speculation in both the tribunal in The Hague and in Belgrade that there might be some money involved," said Ian Traynor, Central European correspondent for Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper. "Over the last few months, there have been more than a dozen surrenders and transfers of fairly prominent war crimes suspects. In negotiating the surrender of these people, a lot of money has been changing hands, and the investigators suspect quite a lot of dirty money from the Milosevic era has been involved. Now, whether something parallel or similar is currently being negotiated with the Karadzic family is producing a lot of rumor and speculation."
It may also be that the pressure from NATO and EU security forces has simply become too much for the family to handle. An international security force raided Ljiljana Karadzic's home in Pale earlier this month and held her son, Alexander, for 10 days.
"In the hope that you are alive and well and able to make decisions by yourself, I beg you to take this decision and do it for the sake of all of us. In all my despair and powerlessness, it is the only thing I can do. I beg you."
And other blows may have weakened her resolve. Ljiljana's mother died of cancer in Montenegro in May and, last week, Karadzic's brother, Luka, was arrested after a driving accident in which a woman died.
Radovan Karadzic is widely seen as the guiding force behind the Bosnian Serbs' ethnic-cleansing polices in the war of 1992-95. He has been charged with war crimes and genocide, including the massacre of some 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995.
UN war crimes prosecutors believe Karadzic spends his time moving clandestinely between the Serb-controlled part of Bosnia and Montenegro, which lies outside of the jurisdiction of the peacekeeping forces seeking to track him down.
It's thought he may have taken shelter in a monastery in the mountainous and sparsely populated northeastern corner of Montenegro, where he is believed to have the support and protection of the Orthodox Church and hard-line Serbian nationalists.
Karadzic remains an almost iconic figure in Serbia itself and Jovan Simic, an adviser to Serbian president Boris Tadic, was dismissive of the idea that his wife's appeal might weaken Karadzic's resolve to stay on the run.
"I don't think the statement will significantly affect any decision by Radovan Karadzic to turn himself in," Simic said. "Ten years is too long a period, and it proves Karadzic's unwavering position not to surrender. Of course, I'm just speculating."
Perhaps, but the pressure on the former Bosnian Serb leader is building. His wife's support, moral and otherwise, once clearly gave strength to his resolve not to surrender. Its withdrawal can only weaken his determination.Related stories:
Analysis: Karadzic And Mladic Are 'Everywhere But In The Hague'
Moving Beyond Dayton