Serb intelligence covered Karadzic, minister says

Serbia's intelligence service protected Bosnian war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, who lived undercover until his arrest in the capital this week, the interior minister was quoted Wednesday as saying, reported dpa.

The former Bosnian Serb leader will likely be extradited to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague this weekend or early next week, Serb officials said. His lawyer said Karadzic would conduct his own defence - like his late mentor and backer, Slobodan Milosevic.

Serb security forces arrested Karadzic, 63, on Monday night in Belgrade, meeting a key condition for joining the European Union. At the tribunal, he faces charges including genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

His arrest came four days after Serbia's two-week-old pro-European government appointed a new head of the Security Information Agency (BIA), the country's intelligence service.

"BIA protected him, BIA has now handed him over," Interior Minister Ivica Dacic, who is in charge of Serbia's police, was quoted in the Press daily.

Undercover, Karadzic dramatically changed his appearance by growing a bushy beard and long white hair. He lived and worked in Belgrade as an alternative medicine doctor in a private clinic under a false name Dragan David Dabic, Serb officials and media say.

With the charade over, Karadzic got his hair and beard cut, his laywer Svetozar Vujacic told reporters.

"He cut his hair and beard. He looks like himself again, only skinnier," Vujacic said.

The disguise allowed Karadzic to travel around the country undetected and attend medical congresses and seminars. He had a website and supplemented his income by giving lectures on bio-energy and meditation, and writing for a magazine called Healthy Life.

A spokesman for Serbia's war crimes court, Bruno Vekaric, gave no precise extradition date because Karadzic's lawyer plans to appeal on Friday evening.

"After that, court will have three days to decide on the appeal. Then the interior ministry has to sign the decision. Monday or Tuesday are more realistic, but it can happen sooner," Vekaric told local media.

Karadzic's arrest placed Dacic, the interior minister and head of the late president Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist party, in an awkward position.

He has repeatedly denied that the police had anything to do with the arrest.

"Not one policeman participated in the location or arrest of Karadzic. It was all done by security forces," Dacic told Tanjug state newst agency.

Slobodan Milosevic was extradited to the tribunal in 2001 by the then prime minister and head of the pro-European Democratic Party, Zoran Djindjic.

Djindjic was assassinated in 2003 by Milosevic's special police forces and Milosevic died while in custody in The Hague in 2006. Djindjic's successor, Boris Tadic, formed Serbia's ruling coalition with Dacic less than two weeks ago.

New BIA head Sasa Vukadinovic is affiliated with to President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party and played a key role in the fight against organized crime after Djindjic's assassination.

Karadzic's lawyer said Karadzic will conduct his own defence at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

"Karadzic will have a legal team here in Serbia that will help him in his defence, but he will represent himself in The Hague tribunal. In the same maestro way as Vojislav Seselj," Vujacic said.

Radovan's brother Luka said that Karadzic will try to stall the process in the Hague as much as possible in order for the tribunal to close. The tribunal plans to complete all trials by the end of 2009 and all appeals by 2010.

"Since Hague tribunal has to finish its work by 2010, it might happen that the remaining cases will be transferred to the national courts", Luka Karadzic said.

Seselj, the jailed leader of the Serbian opposition ultranationalist Radical Party, is currently on trial in The Hague on charges of murder, torture and persecution of non-Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia during the 1990s Balkan wars. He has has refused a defence lawyer and is defending himself. dpa kp tc sc

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