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Thousands of Serb extremists rally in Belgrade for war crimes suspect Karadzic
Serbia Karadzic XDB 5394574
Family members, left, and his defense team arrive to the court building where war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic is being held, in Belgrade, Serbia, Tuesday, July 29, 2008. Karadzic was captured in Belgrade and is awaiting extradition to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Ultranationalists were gathering for a massive pro-Radovan Karadzic rally Tuesday, amid reports that the ex-Bosnian Serb leader's appeal against his extradition to the U.N. war crimes tribunal had not arrived at a Serbian court. - photo by Associated Press
    BELGRADE, Serbia — Singing nationalist songs and waving posters of their ‘‘Serb Hero,’’ thousands of Serb 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.
    Riot police deployed across the capital 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 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 Tadic’s new government of treason for arresting Karadzic last week. The war crimes fugitive had spent nearly 13 years on the run.
    Radical leader Aleksandar Vucic called for the removal of Tadic’s government.
    ‘‘Thank you for showing that Serbia is not dead, although it is being killed by Boris Tadic,’’ Vucic said. ‘‘Thieves and bandits are ruling Serbia.’’
    ‘‘We will fight for Serbia and Serbia will be free,’’ he added, to thunderous applause.
    Tuesday’s protest was seen a test case for Tadic’s government, which is much more pro-Western than the one that had controlled Serbia during the U.S. Embassy attack. Tadic earlier had warned the right-wing extremists to remain peaceful.
    ‘‘Everyone has the right to demonstrate, but they should know that law and order will be respected,’’ Tadic said.
    The U.S. Embassy had predicted that up to 100,000 protesters could show up and advised Americans to avoid downtown Belgrade.
    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.
    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 Karadzic’s lawyer had actually filed an appeal against his extradition to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
    ‘‘We have not received the appeal,’’ Serb war crimes court’s spokeswoman Ivana Ramic said at the end of court hours Tuesday.
    Karadzic’s lawyer claimed he sent the appeal by registered mail before a midnight Friday deadline. But the postal service said it doesn’t have it and 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 Karadzic to U.N. tribunal without considering Karadzic’s objection.
    In a sign that Karadzic anticipated a quick handover to the U.N. tribunal, his nephew Dragan Karadzic was seen Tuesday bringing two large suitcases into the Belgrade prison for his uncle.
    Karadzic is still revered by many as a wartime hero for helping to create the Bosnian Serb mini-state.
    Serbia’s new, pro-Western government hopes that Karadzic’s arrest will strengthen the country’s bid for EU membership. Serbia had been accused of not searching for war crimes fugitives sought by the U.N. tribunal.
    Associated Press writers Jovana Gec and Katarina Kratovac contributed to this report.

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