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Protesters, Police Clash Over Mladic Arrest

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Protesters, Police Clash Over Mladic Arrest


Protesters, Police Clash Over Mladic Arrest

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Today, the lawyer for the former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic appealed the order to extradite him to The Hague. His family and lawyer say he is too sick to stand trial. But Serbian authorities are determined to extradite him to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

Mladic was indicted for atrocities during the Bosnian War, including the massacre of thousands of Muslims at Srebrenica. Now, ultranationalist Serbs are protesting his arrest. Last night, they clashed with the police in Belgrade, as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Ultranationalists gathered outside parliament, waving posters of Ratko Mladic, their national hero. Many protesters were teenagers. They went wild for Mladic's son, Darko.

Mr. DARKO MLADIC: (Through translator) Ratko Mladic was not fighting against other nations, other religions. Ratko Mladic was fighting for the freedom of his nation.

POGGIOLI: The rally ended in clashes with the police, but at some 7,000 people turnout was small by local standards. Nevertheless, most Serbs have not welcomed Mladic's arrest. Pollster Srdjan Bogosavljevic says many citizens believe it was carried out under international pressure.

Mr. SRDJAN BOGOSAVLJEVIC (Director, Strategic Marketing): Only a small percentage said finally he's arrested, I'm happy that something like that has happened. Mostly people did - some have some feelings that it is kind of unjust, approximately three-fourth of the people are that.

POGGIOLI: When nationalists were in power, the fugitive Mladic was said to have enjoyed official protection, until a pro-Western government came into office in 2008.

Serbia's deputy war crime's prosecutor Bruno Vekaric says investigators gradually cut off Mladic's financial lifeline and support network. He possessed only $800 when captured. Extradition to The Hague, Vekaric says, is a matter of days.

Mr. BRUNO VEKARIC (Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor, Serbia): (Through translator) We want to express our sorrow for the victims. This is our contribution to justice. We do not want the world to remember us for our war commanders, but as the country of tennis star Novak Djokovic.

POGGIOLI: Vekaric says, physically, Mladic, is a far cry from the strutting, hard-drinking military chief. But the arrogant personality seems intact.

Mr. VEKARIC: (Through translator) I saw an old, tired man moving slowly, but he was very aggressive, accusing me of being a CIA agent plotting against Serbs.

POGGIOLI: A panel of doctors says Mladic's ailments are not so serious and he's fit to stand trial. This contrasts with the description given by his defense lawyer, Milos Saljic, who says it's a miracle Mladic is alive after two heart attacks and three strokes.

Mr. MILOS SALJIC (Laywer): (Speaks foreign language)

POGGIOLI: Saljic describes Mladic's conversation as rambling. At times defiant, he says, he'll put on his uniform and walk all the way to The Hague and call Bill and Hillary Clinton to the witness stand. At times nostalgic, he wants to visit the grave of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Mostly, Saljic says, Mladic is obsessed with death and graves.

Graves have always been a Mladic obsession. In his territorial conquest, he would often say where a Serb is buried that's Serbian land. And the 8,000 men and boys massacred at Srebrenica were dumped into mass graves. His detailed war diaries were another obsession. Some 3,500 pages and audio recordings discovered a year ago in Belgrade were handed over to the tribunal.

Analyst Dejan Anastasijevic says this trove of documents shows the degree of command and control Mladic exercised over his troops.

Mr. DEJAN ANASTASIJEVIC (Political Analyst): So he will be his own chief prosecution witness. It will be extremely difficult for him to prove, in the light of these documents and all the other documents that is in the possession of the tribunal, that he did not have command and control over his forces.

POGGIOLI: Anastasijevic says the evidence in the diaries should ensure that the Mladic trial, contrary to others at The Hague tribunal, will provide a swift and unambiguous verdict.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Belgrade.

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