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Bosnian court approves extradition of Croatian war crimes suspect

A Bosnian court has handed down a decision to extradite a Croatian war crimes suspect to Serbia. This has strained relations between Serbia and Croatia at a time when the former combatants had been moving closer togther.

A 2005 photo shows the Vukovar's new community center beside a buildung gutted during the war.

The effects of the war are still visible in Vukovar

A Bosnian court on Friday ruled that a Croatian war crimes suspect may be extradited to Serbia to stand trial.

"After analyzing … the documentation, the court has concluded that the legal conditions for the extradition are fulfilled," a spokesperson for the state court in Sarajevo told the French news agency AFP.

Tihomir Purda's lawyer has three days to appeal the decision and has already said that he intends to do so. If the ruling is upheld, the Bosnian justice ministry would still have to ratify the decision before Purda could be extradited.

Purda was taken into custody after crossing into northern Bosnia from Croatia on January 5, on an international arrest warrant issued by Serbia. He is wanted by Belgrade for his alleged involvement in war crimes committed against Serbs in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar at the start of the 1991-1995 Balkan wars.

Croatia rejects extradition

Purda's arrest sparked outrage across Croatia, and war veterans held a number of demonstrations last month to protest against the move.

Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor

Kosor opposed the possible extradition of Purda to Serbia

Croatia had refused to extradite Purda, saying there was not sufficient evidence against him.

Speaking to journalists following the Bosnian court's decision, Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said Purda had been the "victim of a rigged process" set in motion by the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

The case has strained relations between Zagreb and Belgrade following a number of steps taking by the two sides to try to improve ties and put their violent past behind them.

In November 2010, Serbian President Boris Tadic travelled to Vukovar and apologized for atrocities committed by Serbs in Croatia during the 1990s. He and his Croatian counterpart, Ivo Josipovic, laid wreaths at a mass grave containing the bodies of 200 hospital patients who were killed after the Yugoslav National Army and Serb militiamen overran Vukovar in November 1991.

Author: Chuck Penfold (AFP, AP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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