CEOL
Police arrested eight involved in 'kidnapping' war crimes suspect

BELGRADE, May 17, 2000 -- (AFP) Serbian police arrested a group of eight people suspected of "kidnapping" Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Dragan Nikolic and handing him to NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia, Beta news agency reported Tuesday.

Nikolic, a former Bosnian Serb detention camp commander, was arrested on April 21 by the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia (SFOR), but his lawyer claimed he had been picked up in neighboring Yugoslavia by unidentified civilians.

The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) did not confirm or deny this report.

The deputy chief of Serbia's anti-crime squad, Colonel Mile Novakovic said "foreign mercenaries" -- seven men and a woman -- organized Nikolic's "kidnapping" from his house in the eastern Serbian town Smederevo on April 21.

He said they detained Nikolic after "falsely presenting themselves as policemen," and transferred him to Bosnia where they handed him over to SFOR.

"Fulfilling the orders and being financed by foreign intelligence services, they have committed a crime, so far unseen here -- they handed over their countryman to confirmed enemies of our state and people," Novakovic said.

The investigation would start on Wednesday, Novakovic said, adding the eight were suspected of "criminal act of terrorism by committing an act of violence which has created insecurity among the citizens, with an aim of jeopardizing the security of Yugoslavia."

One of the suspects was a policeman, while three others have so far been convicted several times for various criminal deeds, Novakovic said.

He said the group was paid 100,000 German marks (51,000 euros/46,000 dollars) for Nikolic's capture, but refused to reveal any other details regarding the alleged involvement of foreign intelligence services in the case.

As former commander of the Bosnian Serb Susica prison camp, through which up to 8,000 Muslim prisoners passed between April and September 1992, Nikolic faces 80 charges, including crimes against humanity.

During his first hearing before the ICTY on April 28, Nikolic pleaded not guilty to all 80 counts.



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