Hadzic visits mom before The Hague trial

2011-07-22 15:02

Belgrade - Former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic was taken to see his ailing mother on Friday ahead of his expected transfer from Belgrade to a UN war crimes court in The Hague to stand trial.

Hadzic, the last remaining fugitive of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), is expected to be put on an aircraft shortly after concluding this last family visit.

The former rebel Serb leader was the last remaining fugitive of the ICTY to be captured early on Wednesday. When he arrives in The Hague, the court will have finally received the last of the 161 people it has indicted for their role in bloody 1990s wars that tore apart the former Yugoslavia 18 years after it was set up.

Hadzic can only be transferred to The Hague after an official order to that effect has been signed by Serbian Justice Minister Snezana Malovic. She has called a press conference for Friday afternoon.

Hadzic's lawyer has said that a transfer on Friday was a "realistic" assumption.

Last family visit

The former Croatian Serb leader left the court in a police convoy early on Friday and arrived at his family home in Novi Sad, about 70km north of the capital, a local journalist told AFP. He was later seen leaving the house, the same source said.

At the house, where Hadzic himself lived until he went into hiding in 2004, he was expected to see his ailing mother and his daughter who is pregnant. Police have blocked all roads leading to and from the house in the Novi Sad neighbourhood of Telop.

A source close to the family, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that Hadzic was given permission to visit his mother as she was too ill to travel to a court in Belgrade where her son has been held since his arrest on Wednesday.

When former Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladic was arrested nearly two months ago, Serbian authorities also allowed him to visit the grave of his daughter Ana the morning before he was put on an aircraft to the UN war crimes court.

Serbian media reported that before leaving for Novi Sad, Hadzic also received a visit from his mistress and the child he had with her after meeting with his wife and children in his cell in the court building on Thursday.

Hadzic, who had been on the run since 2004, was arrested in the idyllic mountain region of Fruska Gora near the northern city of Novi Sad on Wednesday.

Won’t appeal

He was notified of the Serbian court's ruling that he could be transfered to The Hague within hours of his arrest and chose not to appeal.

He has been indicted over the massacre by Croatian Serb troops under his command of 250 Croats and other non-Serbs taken from a hospital in Vukovar after the city fell to Serbian troops following a three-month siege in November 1991.

The 52-year-old faces 14 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes for the murder of hundreds of civilians, and the deportation of tens of thousands of Croats by troops under his command during the 1991-95 Croatian war.

After his transfer to The Hague, the UN court will schedule an initial appearance for Hadzic, expected next week, where he will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the charges against him. It could take up to a year for his trial to open.