Bosnian Serb genocide suspect Radovan Karadzic is to defend himself before the UN war crimes court, his lawyer has said on Wednesday, raising memories of the trial of his late ally, Slobodan Milosevic.
Karadzic, who stands indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, was arrested in Belgrade on Monday, having evaded capture for more than a decade partly thanks to a fake identity as an alternative health guru.
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During the Bosnian war Karadzic was a close ally of then Yugoslav president Milosevic, who was also indicted for war crimes and chose to defend himself before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Milosevic's manipulation of the role was blamed for making his trial one of the longest in international legal history at more than four years. The Serbian strongman died in custody in The Hague in 2006 before a verdict was delivered.
“Karadzic will have a legal team in Serbia that will help him with his defence but he will defend himself” at the ICTY, his lawyer Svetozar Vujacic said.
The lawyer confirmed he would file an appeal against Karadzic's transfer to the UN war crimes court in The Hague on Friday.
Appeal against transfer
“They (the court) will not be able to make a decision before Monday because I will send the appeal on Friday,” said Mr Vujacic, who had already indicated he intends to delay the transfer for as long as possible.
Once filed, a special panel of Serbia's war crimes court will have three days to decide on the application.
Under Serbia's law on cooperation with the ICTY, suspects can appeal their transfer to the UN war crimes tribunal before a special committee approves the move.
The process could take up to nine days, but Serbia's war crimes prosecution has said it expects Karadzic to be sent to the UN court by Monday or Tuesday at the latest.
Meanwhile, up to 250 hardline nationalists gathered in central Belgrade to protest for the second consecutive day against Karadzic's arrest.
Cordoned by the anti-riot police, the protesters – mostly members of the ultra-nationalist right-wing organisation Obraz and supporters of the hardline opposition Serbian Radical party – chanted Karadzic's name and insults addressed to Serbia's pro-European leadership, blaming it for the arrest.
Since his arrest, the public's imagination has been captured by the reports of the fake identity Karadzic forged.
The 63-year-old had made himself virtually unrecognisable in order to eke out a living through the practise under the false name of Dragan Dabic, deceiving naturopaths, health writers, landlords and many more.
He disguised himself under flowing white hair, a thick beard, glasses and a white Panama hat, enabling him to move freely throughout Belgrade and several Serbian towns.
One Serbian daily described the look as that of a “loveable guru”.
Karadzic used public transport, even appeared on television and drank at cafes in downtown Belgrade's main boulevard with his new colleagues.
He was finally nabbed by security forces on a suburban bus in the Serbian capital after an apparent tip-off from a foreign intelligence agency.
Speaking to AFP, lawyer Mr Vujacic said his client now looked like the Karadzic of old after having his hair and beard trimmed.
“He's looking good. He had a hair cut, he shaved himself, and is in great shape. He now looks just like before,” Mr Vujacic told AFP.
Karadzic faces 11 counts of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities before the UN tribunal.
The charges are mainly related to two of Europe's worst atrocities since World War II, the 44-month siege of Sarajevo which killed more than 10,000 people and the Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.
In Bosnia's bitter inter-ethnic war, Karadzic is also said to have authorised so-called “ethnic cleansing” in which more than a million non-Serbs were driven from their homes.
Karadzic's daughter Sonja Karadzic-Jovicevic has appealed to the powerful international envoy to Bosnia to return the family's seized travel papers, and to allow them to visit him in a Belgrade prison cell.
After Karadzic's arrest there are only two more fugitives of the UN court at large: former military chief Ratko Mladic, 65, and Goran Hadzic, 49, a former Serb politician wanted for “ethnic cleansing” in Croatia.