Extradition of former Bosnian president to Serbia blocked

Judge in the case said he felt Serbian war crime charges against Ejup Ganic were 'being used for political purposes'

A judge today blocked the extradition of the former Bosnian president Ejup Ganic from the UK to Serbia, ruling that the charges he faces in Serbia for alleged war crimes could be motivated by politics.

Ganic, 64, is accused of ordering attacks on a medical convoy and a military hospital, as well as on a military convoy that saw the massacre of more than 40 soldiers as they retreated from the Bosnian Muslim area of Sarajevo in May 1992.

The engineering professor, who was detained at Heathrow in March after a degree ceremony at the University of Buckingham, denies the charges.

He argued during the hearing at City of Westminster magistrates court that he had been exonerated at two legal hearings and that it would be impossible for him to receive a fair trial in Serbia.

District judge Timothy Workman said the fact that the two independent investigations concluded there was no case against Ganic persuaded him the extradition proceedings were "being used for political purposes and as such amount to an abuse of the process of this court".

"In the absence of any additional significant evidence, there would appear to be only two possible explanations, that of incompetence by the Serbian prosecutors or a motive for prosecuting which is based upon politics, race or religion," said Workman.

"From the evidence I have received from Mr Petrovic (the Serbian deputy prosecutor) I am satisfied that the war crimes prosecutors office is far from incompetent."

The Serbian war crimes prosecutors office said it would appeal against the ruling.

Ganic and 18 others were indicted by Belgrade court last year over their alleged roles when 42 soldiers were killed.

The infamous incident took place in May 1992 at the start of the Bosnian war, when Serbian forces encircled Sarajevo.

It was the start of a 44-month siege, during which they killed 10,000 people.

Workman's judgement concurred with evidence received from the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Lord Ashdown, who served as the European Union special representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 2002 and 2006.

In a statement, Ashdown said: "Based upon what I know about Dr Ganic's case and about Serbia and its national politics, the request is about politics rather than justice."

Outside court, Ganic said the Serbians were guilty of a "textbook example of abuse".

"They somehow misused the system here and kept me for five months and created a fog that there was something, but there was nothing," he said.

Ganic's son, Emir, said the family was travelling home and would be in Sarajevo, Bosnia's capital, by Wednesday.

"We're all extremely satisfied," Emir Ganic told The Associated Press. "This shows how dishonest the Serbian prosecution was."

Serbian prosecutors said they would appeal, but it was unclear how such a move could be carried out, particularly since Ganic is leaving the UK.


Haroon Siddique and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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