Saturday, April 14, 2007

Australia: War Crimes Accused Set For Croatia

Taken from The Sydney Morning Herald., 13.04.2007
By Leonie Lamont

AN AUSTRALIAN accused of war crimes during the Balkans war is likely to be handed over to Croatian authorities, after a Sydney court agreed to his extradition yesterday.

Dragan Vasiljkovic, 51, has been in custody since January last year, when Croatia sought his extradition for alleged offences including torture and the murder of civilians and prisoners of war between 1991 and 1993.

Vasiljkovic was known as "Captain Dragan" during the war when he commanded Serbian paramilitary units, and Central Local Court heard during the extradition hearing that Serbs regarded him as a hero.

The Croatian Government has alleged he did nothing to stop his unit maltreating captured Croatian soldiers, and that he kicked a POW in the head. It alleges that in 1993 he commanded subordinates to interrogate and "liquidate" two POWs, and that he ordered a tank to fire on a village, causing the death of two civilians and serious injury to others.

Vasiljkovic - who has changed his name to Daniel Snedden and was referred to as such by the deputy chief magistrate, Paul Cloran, yesterday - migrated to Australia in 1967 but returned to the Balkans during the war.

Outside court, Father Rade Radan, of the Serbian Orthodox Church, said Vasiljkovic would not get a fair trial. Vasiljkovic told the court the extradition request was political payback for the 2005 arrest of a Croatian "war hero", Ante Gotovina.

His barrister indicated that a Federal Court appeal was likely.

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