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Serbian Prosecutor Sees Karadzic Extradited Next Week

Journalists wait outside Scheveningen prison in The Hague, where it is expected Karadzic will be held after his extradition.
BELGRADE -- War crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic will be extradited to the United Nations tribunal in The Hague at the earliest on July 28, Serbia's chief war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said.

The leader of the Bosnian Serbs in the 1992-95 Bosnia war, who is indicted twice for genocide, was arrested this week after 11 years in hiding, and is now being held in a Belgrade prison.

"Karadzic's lawyer has until midnight on Friday [July 25] to file an appeal to the extradition order," Vukcevic told Reuters.

The appeal may be sent in by mail, which adds a small delay to the process.

"The panel of judges has three days to decide on the appeal, but I assume they will meet on Monday [July 28]. Then the justice minister has to sign the extradition order."

Vukcevic said that in theory, the panel of judges could accept Karadzic's appeal and reject the extradition order.

"However, it is highly unlikely," he added. "The earliest he can be extradited is Monday [July 28]. We have no reason to rush. We have been waiting for him for 13 years."

Mass Protest Called

Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic were indicted in 1995 for planning the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, where 11,000 people died from mortars, sniper fire, malnutrition and illness.

Karadzic has maintained his innocence, accusing The Hague court of being biased against Serbs.

Hard-line nationalists agree, and have called a mass protest next week against his arrest and extradition. Local media have reported that death threats were made against politicians blamed for his arrest, such as pro-Western President Boris Tadic.

"The Hague tribunal is not a court, it's a mockery of law and justice," said Kosta Cavoski, a Belgrade University law professor and president of a team that has been preparing Karadzic's defense for years.

Karadzic's trial in The Hague would be a "court-martial with the decision known in advance," he told reporters.

Karadzic's brother, who visited him in prison, said the fugitive had planned to surrender next year, after a deadline for The Hague Tribunal to open new trials has expired.

His thinking was that if he surrendered then, he would have a chance of being tried in a local Serbian court.

Vukcevic said that regardless of any possible procedural delays in the extradition process, Karadzic was going to The Hague and would not be getting a trial in Serbia.

"These are his hopes," Vukcevic said, "but I think the chances are minimal."