Hague indictee "carried arms, had false identity"

BELGRADE -- Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukčević says Goran Hadžić was arrested early on Wednesday in the area of Mt. Fruška Gora in northern Serbia.

Vladimir Vukčević in Belgrade on Wednesday (Beta)
Vladimir Vukčević in Belgrade on Wednesday (Beta)

The arrest took place near the Krušedol village in Vojvodina, where Hadžić "was to meet with a helper of his, supposedly bringing him some money".

"Hadžić assumed a false identity, having personal documents under an assumed name, and was carrying arms, but did not, however, attempt to resist the arrest,” Vukčević said at a press conference in the Belgrade's Special Court.

Vukčević said that the helper, whose name he refused to reveal, had also been held in custody.

A breakthrough in the search for the former political leader of Serbs in Croatia came about when the action team for the arrest of fugitives of the Hague Tribunal received information that the fugitive had wanted to sell a painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani as he had been lacking money to facilitate his further hiding.

Vukčević said that Hadžić wuold be taken to the special court for a hearing today.

According to the war crimes prosecutor, who is also the coordinator of the action team, Hadžić was distrustful of others and therefore had only few contacts, including a number of officials of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC).

The Security Information Agency (BIA) got the information that that Hadžić should have meet the helper allegedly bringing him the money for hiding, but that the two had decided to delay the contact for 24 hours due to relevant media speculation.

The contact took place early this morning. Hadžić was arrested and his helper held in custody, but a criminal procedure against that person had not yet been launched, the prosecutor said.

Vukčević said that Hadžić's friends had been spreading false information about his arrest, using media to warn him about the possibility of "really getting arrested".

Among the media messages was the one sent two days ago about the postponement of Hadžić's meeting with his helper.

“The friends wanted to send him a message that he should leave Serbia, but good cooperation with intelligence services of other countries frustrated the attempt,” Vukčević said.

He added that Hadžić was changing his hiding places over the years.

The prosecutor said the person who had told Hadžić he should find a new hiding place in 2004 and his hiding locations would be discovered.

He noted that the arrest had been conducted safely with respect to both Hadžić and the BIA team in charge of the arrest.

Vukčević said the extradition procedure, more specifically the process of determining the conditions for Hadžić's extradition to the Hague Tribunal, should begin today, after he is placed into a detention unit of the special court.

Hadžić should be questioned by an investigative judge of the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade District Court, who should later decide whether the conditions to send the indictee to The Hague have been fulfilled.