Ex-Bosnian vice president remains in UK custody to fight Serbian war crimes charges

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ex-Bosnian vice president remains in UK custody

LONDON — Former Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic must remain in a British prison for at least two more days following his arrest on Serbian war crimes charges, a judge said Tuesday.

The 64-year-old academic was arrested March 1 at London’s Heathrow airport on a Belgrade warrant in connection with the 1992 deaths of Serbian troops in Bosnia.

District Judge Nicholas Evans told Ganic his request for bail would be considered Thursday at London’s High Court, after lawyers appealed to have him freed while British courts decide whether he should be extradited to Serbia.

Serbia accuses Ganic, a wartime leader who briefly acted as president, of ordering the killing of more than 40 Yugoslav army soldiers retreating from Sarajevo at the beginning of the 1990s Balkan war.

Though he has not yet been asked to enter any formal plea, Ganic has told his family he denies the charges and expects them to be dismissed.

“We were really encouraged by today’s hearing because the court seemed to accept our arguments that the arrest warrant is at the very least faulty,” Ganic’s daughter Emina told reporters after the hearing.

“We now feel we have some chance of getting out of this Kafka novel that we are trapped in,” she said, referring to Franz Kafka’s “The Trial,” a novel about a man caught in an unending legal limbo.

Defense lawyer Clare Montgomery told Tuesday’s hearing the allegations against Ganic had previously been rejected by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Under extradition agreements, Serbia has 45 days from Ganic’s arrest to send British authorities full details of the case against Ganic.

Serbia’s Justice Minister Snezana Malovic said Tuesday that Belgrade will submit a full file by the end of the week. She said there are about 500 pages of documentation which need to be translated.

His arrest has sparked protests in Bosnia, with thousands outside the British and Serbian embassies in Sarajevo last week accusing Serbia of a politically motivated attempt to prosecute Ganic.

Ganic, a friend of ex-British leader Margaret Thatcher, was detained during a visit to Britain with a group of students from his private university — the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology — for a degree ceremony at Buckingham University.

Ganic blew a kiss to Emina and his son Emir as he left the hearing to return to a London jail.

Evans ordered Ganic to return to court March 25, unless he is granted bail at the High Court. If he is freed, he will be asked to instead return to court next month, the judge said.

Associated Press Writer Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this report.

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