British court grants bail to former Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic

By Jill Lawless, AP
Thursday, March 11, 2010

UK court grants bail to ex-Bosnian vice president

LONDON — Britain’s High Court granted bail Thursday to former Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic, who was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport on a Serbian war crimes warrant earlier this month.

The 64-year-old was arrested March 1 for his alleged role in the 1992 death of Yugoslav army troops in Bosnia. Belgrade accuses Ganic of ordering an attack on retreating soldiers in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

Bosnia argues the allegations are part of a campaign to minimize Serb guilt for the 1992-1995 war that tore the Balkans apart.

Bosnian leader Haris Silajdzic, who flew to London to support Ganic, insisted there was no evidence against the former leader. He said Serbia’s warrant was an attempt to rewrite history and warned the dispute was harming the improving relations between the Balkan nations.

“We would like to have normal, neighborly relations, but they continue to provoke Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Silajdzic told a news conference.

Lord Justice John Laws said it was fair to grant Ganic bail “subject to stringent conditions.” He added that Ganic’s lawyers had put forward “substantial argument” to show that Serbia’s extradition request was politically motivated.

The accusation relates to an attack on a convoy of Serb-led Yugoslav soldiers who retreated from Sarajevo in May 1992 taking President Alija Izetbegovic with them as a prisoner.

Ganic was acting president during the less than two days that Izetbegovic was held. Belgrade first accused him of ordering the killing of over 40 Yugoslav soldiers during the attack on the convoy but then reduced the number to 18.

The U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague dismissed the allegations that war crimes were committed during the attack on the convoy.

Ganic was released from London’s Wandsworth prison later Thursday. He has been ordered to live at a specified London address, report daily to a police station and observe a curfew. Judge Laws said the Bosnian government had promised not to issue him travel documents.

Ganic’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, said a 300,000 pound ($450,000) security had been put up by an anonymous well-wisher described as “a lady of substantial means.”

Ganic’s son and daughter hugged each other in the courtroom after the decision was handed down. His son Emir said the move was “a small victory for us.”

“This is obviously a first step,” he said. “Now in front of us is the much bigger picture of dealing with the extradition request.”

He said his father was holding up well in prison.

“Being in prison is nothing for him compared to being shelled by the Serbs in Bosnia for three years,” he said.

Silajdzic said British authorities denied Ganic his medicine and other rights during his detention. The leader said he had demanded an apology for the alleged mistreatment from British Foreign Secretary David Miliband when they met earlier Thursday.

He said Miliband promised to investigate the complaint.

Ganic is due back in court on April 13. Lawyers for the Serbian government said 400 pages of documents to support the extradition request were still being translated into English so they could be passed to British authorities.

Outside the court, about a dozen critics of the former Bosnian leader waved placards reading “Ganic: Blood on his hands” and “Gotcha Ganic.”

After an earlier hearing last week, thousands of angry Bosnians demonstrated outside the British Embassy in Sarajevo.

The Foreign Office said he had stressed that Ganic’s arrest “is a judicial matter, which in no way amounts to a diplomatic or political statement by the British government or any U.K. point of view on past events in the western Balkans.”

Associated Press writer Sylvia Hui contributed to this report.

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