- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2008

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) | Singing nationalist songs and waving posters of their “Serb Hero,” thousands of Serbian extremists protested Tuesday in downtown Belgrade against the government’s plans to extradite ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

About 80 demonstrators clashed with police on the edges of the gathering, throwing stones at the officers and drawing return fire of tear gas and rubber bullets. Some protesters smashed shop windows, and witnesses reported at least one policeman was injured.

Riot police were deployed across the capital and heavily armed anti-terrorist troops guarded the U.S. Embassy as busloads of ultranationalists arrived from all over Serbia and Bosnia for the anti-government rally dubbed “Freedom for Serbia.”

Many protesters carried banners and wore badges with Mr. Karadzic’s name and picture. Some chanted slogans against President Boris Tadic and called for his death.

But as the rally began, police estimated the turnout at only around 15,000 people - much less than the organizers had expected. The last major nationalist rally, organized in February after Kosovo’s declaration of independence, drew 150,000 people and led to a chaotic, violent looting spree.

Tuesday’s protest was organized by the right-wing Serbian Radical Party, which has accused Mr. Tadic’s new government of treason for arresting Mr. Karadzic last week. The war crimes fugitive had spent nearly 13 years on the run.

Radical leader Aleksandar Vucic called for the removal of the Tadic government.

“Thank you for showing that Serbia is not dead, although it is being killed by Boris Tadic,” Mr. Vucic told the crowd. “Thieves and bandits are ruling Serbia.”

The protest was seen as a test case for Mr. Tadic’s government, which is much more pro-Western than the one that had controlled Serbia during the U.S. Embassy attack.

In February’s mass rally, the U.S. Embassy was partly burned and protesters went on a looting spree, smashing shops and McDonald’s restaurants in Belgrade. Those protesters were angry that the U.S. had recognized Kosovo, a former region in Serbia, as an independent country.

Mr. Karadzic faces 11 charges at the U.N. tribunal, including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. He is accused of masterminding the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica and the more than three-year siege of Sarajevo, which left 10,000 people dead.

It remained unclear Tuesday whether Mr. Karadzic’s attorney had filed an appeal against his extradition to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Mr. Karadzic’s attorney said he sent the appeal by registered mail before a midnight Friday deadline. But the postal service said it doesn’t have it and Serbian war crimes court’s spokeswoman Ivana Ramic said the court doesn’t either.

Under Serbian law, if the appeal is not filed, or if it is sent by mail but doesn’t arrive, the court’s investigative judge can rule to extradite Mr. Karadzic without considering Mr. Karadzic’s objection.

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