No fair trial in Serbia for ex-Bosnian leader, court told

7th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic could not get a fair trial in Serbia, where he is seen as the "demonised head of the hated enemy", his lawyer told an extradition hearing in London Wednesday.

Ganic is wanted by Serbia over alleged war crimes during the Balkan conflict in 1992, including an attack on a Yugoslav army officers' club which he is said to have ordered, another on a convoy of ambulances and a military convoy.

But arguing that Serbia's extradition request should be refused, Ganic's lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said that the "hostility of civil society is clear" in Serbia to a man seen as "the demonised head of the hated enemy.

"You couldn't get a more high-profile and symbolic case than this," Fitzgerald told District Judge Timothy Workman, sitting at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London.

"They're proposing that he is tried by the state of his erstwhile enemies, despite the findings of two independent, international prosecutors that there's no case against him."

There is a "high risk of prejudice and a high risk he won't get a fair trial" in Serbia, Fitzgerald added.

Earlier, prosecutor James Lewis, who is outlining Serbia's case, insisted on the "objectivity and independence" of war crimes prosecutors in the country and said it could offer him a fair trial.

He added it was a coincidence that Ganic, 64, was arrested at London's Heathrow airport in March as Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic gave the opening speech in his genocide trial at a UN court.

There was "absolutely no question whatsoever of there being any sinister or other deliberate matter of timing" over Ganic's arrest, Lewis told the court.

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald said Ganic -- who denies responsibility for the alleged attacks -- could not be blamed for every shot fired during the conflict.

Trying to do so would be "as if (Winston) Churchill had given specific authority for every shot fired during World War II," he added.

The first witness in the case was Philip Alcock, a British international prosecutor in the war crimes chamber of Bosnia-Herzegovina's state court, who was called by Ganic's defence.

Alcock said moves to prosecute Ganic were "politically motivated" and that there would be a "huge risk of prejudice" if he went on trial in Serbia.

"I don't know how confident I would be even having it in Bosnia with a mixed panel," he said. "It cries out for an international panel."

The hearing was expected to run into next week.

© 2010 AFP

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