Thursday, July 24, 2008

Karadzic's secret life

Belgrade, 24 July (AKI) – The secret life of the world’s most wanted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic reads like a political thriller.

Karadzic, a war time Bosnian Serb leader, has been charged by the United Nations' war crimes tribunal (ICTY) with war crimes and genocide.

But during his 13 years as a fugitive, he led an exciting parallel life in the center of Belgrade as local and international intelligence agencies were looking for him.

Even the time and circumstances of his arrest has been clouded by controversy. According to Serbian authorities, he was arrested “in the vicinity of Belgrade” Monday night, but his lawyer Svetozar Vujacic and eyewitnesses said he was arrested on Friday evening and held in an undisclosed location until Monday.

Esmina Golubovic, a resident of a Belgrade suburb of Ugrinovci, told the Belgrade daily Kurir she was there when Karadzic, who lived under the false name Dragan Dabic, was arrested on a bus at about 9:30 pm Friday evening.

She described in detail how seven plain clothes man boarded the bus and made the arrest. One showed her a police badge and told her to move away, she said.

“At one point, three policemen assaulted him and handcuffed him,” Golubovic said.

“Be calm and come with us, we have been following you for the past fifteen days.” one policeman allegedly told Karadzic.

Then they took his belongings and got off the bus, she said.

In a strange coincidence, Golubovic said that her 20 year-old son had volunteered and fought on the side of the Bosnian Serb army and was killed in 1993. He was even decorated posthumously by Karadzic, she said.

Vujacic said two other witnesses called in and described the arrest in the same way.

It is still a mystery where Karadzic spent his early years in hiding or exactly when he arrived in Belgrade.

But in the Serbian capital he lived almost a normal life in the section of New Belgrade, under the assumed name and new identity.

He took the name Dragan Dabic from another of his fallen soldiers, who originated from Serbia and was killed in 1993.

A psychiatrist by profession, he grew a long beard and long hair and presented himself as a doctor specializing in alternative medicine and macrobiotic diets.

He even had his own website on which he advertised his service as an expert in alternative medicine. He described himself as a world traveler who returned to “mother Serbia” in the mid-1990s.

Belgrade newspapers reported that his patients were some well-known personalities, singers and even some politicians. His favored propaganda slogan was: “There is always a solution.”

Born in Montenegro, Karadzic sometimes visited a restaurant in his neighborhood called “Luda Kuca” (Madhouse) whose walls were decorated by his pictures and those of his general, Ratko Mladic, who is still at large.

Sipping Serbian plum brandy, he chatted with people and even played a string instrument called 'gusle', used for playing old Serbian and Montenegrin epic songs, the owner Misko Kovijanic said.

Karadzic often appeared in public with a middle-aged woman whom Serbian newspapers described as "his lover", while his family remained in the Bosnian Serb mountain stronghold of Pale and were kept under tight surveillance by international intelligence agencies.

But the woman, alleged to be his lover, Mila Damjanov said they were just friends, not lovers.

She said she had no idea who he was and was attracted to him because of her interest in alternative medicine. She said she would visit patients with Karadzic and he even helped an autistic child to start talking and get back to normal.

Meanwhile, Serbian newspapers were flooded with speculation about who betrayed Karadzic and who took the reward for the information leading to his arrest.

The US government offered five million dollars for his capture and the Serbian government another million dollars.

Serbian Police Minister, Ivica Dacic, who took office earlier this month, said police had nothing to do with his arrest.

There has been speculations that it was the work of American and British secret services, but Dacic ascribed it to Serbian secret service (BIA).

He said the BIA had earlier protected Karadzic and turned him over after the new government formed by pro-European coalition led by President Boris Tadic took office on 7 July.

Serbian analysts rejected reports by some British newspapers that Karadzic may have been betrayed by Mladic.

“It’s an utter nonsense,” said analyst Cvijetin Milivojevic. “I doubt that Karadzic and Mladic were in touch for security reasons,” he told Adnkronos International (AKI).

“Besides, they were at odds even before the war was over,” Milivojevic added. Other analysts, more or less, agreed.

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