Family visits Hadzic in Serb prison

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) ? The last Balkan war crimes suspect sought by the U.N. war crimes tribunal could be handed over to the court in the Netherlands as soon as Friday, his lawyer said Thursday.

Goran Hadzic has signed a written statement that he will not appeal his extradition to the Hague court, lawyer Toma Fila said.

The former leader of Croatia’s ethnic Serbs was arrested on Wednesday after seven years on the run, discovered by Serbian agents who had followed a money trail that began last December when Hadzic’s aides tried to sell a Modigliani painting.

“He could go this minute, but it was agreed that he should see his family first,” Fila said.

Hadzic’s wife, sister and son visited him early Thursday in the detention unit of Serbia’s war crimes court in Belgrade. Another family visit is planned for early Friday and the extradition could follow soon after that, Fila said.

Hadzic, a 53-year-old former warehouse worker, is sought for atrocities stemming from the 1991-95 war in Croatia. Those include the leveling of Vukovar and the massacre of some 200 Croat prisoners of war after the devastation of the town on the Danube.

His arrest was hailed as the symbolic closure of a horrific chapter in Balkan history and an important step toward the former pariah state of Serbia joining the European Union.

But ultranationalists in Serbia blasted the arrest as a “new act of treason” by the pro-Western authorities of President Boris Tadic. The extremist Serbian Radical Party said that “no other government in the world has done anything like that.”

Analysts say Hadzic’s ties to the secret police and criminal gangs that made huge profits enabled him to hide successfully for years. The Blic daily reported that Hadzic’s hiding was “organized in a much more professional manner than that of Ratko Mladic,” the tribunal’s top suspect who was arrested nearly two months ago.

The Politika daily reported that Hadzic had traveled to Russia and Belarus, returning shortly before his arrest in Serbia’s mountainous north. Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told the Associated Press Hadzic’s ability to leave the country had shrunk considerably since the forming in 2008 of a national security committee.

The Hague tribunal indicted Hadzic in 2004 on 14 charges including war crimes and crimes against humanity, among them the murder, torture, deportation and forcible transfer of Croats and other non-Serbs.