Former Bosnian leader Ejup Ganic arrested at London airport under extradition warrant

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ex-Bosnian leader arrested at London airport

LONDON — British police arrested a former senior Bosnian leader in London Monday on a Serbian warrant alleging he committed war crimes, to the outrage of Bosnian leaders who said the move undermined Bosnian sovereignty.

Ejup Ganic, 63, was arrested at London’s Heathrow airport following an extradition request from Serbia that alleges he conspired to murder wounded soldiers, in breach of the Geneva Convention, police said. The former Bosnian vice president was trying to leave the U.K. when he was detained.

In Serbia, Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said Ganic had first been detained in London on Feb. 26 upon his arrival in Britain, but he was almost immediately released. He said Serbia had asked officials to explain why Ganic was released from custody.

Serbia has issued arrest warrants against Ganic and 18 others and blames them for the 1992 attack on a Yugoslav army convoy in Sarajevo in which more than 40 soldiers were killed.

The so-called Dobrovoljacka Street attack in Sarajevo took place at the start of the 1992-95 war that broke out when Bosnia declared independence from the Serb-led former Yugoslavia.

The Yugoslav army troops were pulling out of the city when they were ambushed by Bosnian troops. Serb authorities say 42 soldiers were killed, 73 wounded and some 200 were captured.

Britain’s Home Office said Ganic — who has retreated from politics to found a private university — appeared at London’s Westminster Magistrates Court after his arrest for an initial hearing Monday. A spokeswoman said Ganic has been ordered to remain in custody and is due to reappear at the court March 29. She declined to provide further details because the court case was ongoing.

“Serbian authorities must now provide full papers to support their extradition request before a date can be fixed for an extradition hearing,” the government said in a statement. “A judge will then consider whether there are any bars to the extradition.”

Bosnian authorities reacted to the arrest with outrage, saying it would hurt relations between Bosnia and Serbia. Tensions between Belgrade and Sarajevo still run high more than a decade after the Bosnian war ended.

“Bosnia has tried to establish correct relations with Serbia, but this political act is obviously directed against Bosnia’s sovereignty,” said Damir Arnaut, political adviser of Muslim Bosniak President Haris Silajdzic.

“Belgrade’s goal is to try to equalize the guilt for the crimes committed during the war and they are doing this because it is increasingly clear that Serbia bears the guilt alone,” he said.

Ganic’s daughter, Emina, told The Associated Press that Belgrade sought her father “on the grounds of the evidence that already was dismissed by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.”

Some students at the university where Ganic worked have called into radio stations, urging Sarajevans to protest Tuesday at the British Embassy.

Highly educated and well-traveled, Ganic gained his Ph.D. in Engineering Science from the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston and had lectured at New York University and the University of Chicago. He has authored numerous books on engineering and is a member of the American Nuclear Society.

Bosnian Foreign Ministry spokesman Zlatan Burzic said a legal team is heading to London on Tuesday to help defend Ganic’s interests.

Britain stressed that the arrest was not a judgment by Britain’s government on “past events” and that British authorities were merely following their legal obligations.

“This in no way represents any kind of diplomatic or political statement by the British government,” she said. “It is the U.K. judicial authorities following their legal obligations under U.K. law.”

Associated Press writer Aida Cerkez-Robinson contributed to this report from Sarajevo.

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