Lawyer warns 'no fair trial' for ex-Bosnian leader in Serbia

14th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former Bosnian leader Ejup Ganic cannot receive a fair trial if he is sent to Serbia to face war crimes charges and Belgrade has offered no new evidence against him, his lawyer said Wednesday.

"He will not get a fair trial," said defence lawyer Edward Fitzgerald on the final day of Ganic's extradition hearing in Britain as he summed up his opposition to Serbia's request for the 64-year-old Ganic to be tried there.

Ganic was arrested in Britain in March on a Serbian warrant.

Lawyer James Lewis, arguing the case on behalf of Serbia's warcrimes prosecution office (WCPO), insisted there was "a proper case for Dr. Ganic to answer" on charges of orchestrating deadly attacks in Sarajevo in 1992.

The judge at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in central London said he would rule in the case on July 27, until which time Ganic must remain on bail in Britain.

"The case has been presented and I hope on the 27th to have a positive decision so I can go to Sarajevo," Ganic told reporters outside the court.

Serbia claims Ganic helped mastermind attacks on a Yugoslav army officers' club, on ambulances sent to the scene and later on an army convoy, causing the deaths of 40 Yugoslav soldiers at the start of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

Ganic -- a Muslim member of Bosnia's collegial presidency during the war-- maintains he is innocent. He says the charges are politically motivated and claims it would impossible for him to get a fair trial in Serbia.

One war crimes case arising from the conflict has been sent from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to be tried in Serbia.

In his final written submission, prosecutor Lewis argued this meant "the ICTY has given its seal of approval to the WCPO and the Serbian courts" and Ganic would receive a fair hearing there.

But defence lawyer Fitzgerald said the case in question concerned a Serbian suspect, adding: "There has never been a case of a Bosnian Muslim being transferred."

He warned there would be a "real risk" of a prejudiced trial, saying that the Serbian authorities wanted to "rewrite history" and "falsely blame the Bosnian Muslims for starting the war".

Lewis hit back, saying: "Because Dr. Ganic will get a fair trial in Serbia, it annihilates any suspicion of whether or not there might be prejudice."

In his written submission to the court, Fitzgerald accused Serbia of the "deliberate, systematic and biased misrepresentation of the facts" presented in its request for Ganic's extradition.

Belgrade claims to have new evidence against Ganic, and in his final submission to the court Lewis stated that "the WCPO has concluded that, on the evidence it has obtained, there is a proper case for Dr. Ganic to answer".

But the defence argued that no new evidence has emerged since a review by the ICTY and a probe by a prosecutor for Bosnia-Herzegovina's state court, neither of which found sufficient evidence to charge Ganic.

Cross-examining Milan Petrovic, the deputy prosecutor of the WCPO, in court Wednesday, Fitzgerald said: "What I have to put to you is that there were no striking new testimonies at all that you have obtained."

In often terse exchanges, Petrovic replied through a translator: "My belief as a prosecutor is completely different from yours."

Fitzgerald also questioned whether, when Petrovic applied to a Serbian judge to issue orders for the arrest and detention of Ganic in December 2008, he had read the ICTY conclusion that Ganic had no case to answer.

"No, there was no need," Petrovic replied, adding: "Today there is reasonable evidence for the charges for the prosecution. The court will then decide on his guilt."

© 2010 AFP

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