On the run, accused Serbian war criminal writes poems

As NATO forces step up the manhunt for former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, his brother says he's unruffled.

While NATO troops have been on the lookout for former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, he has sought solace in literature, writing two novels, two books of children's nursery rhymes, and a theater comedy, his brother says.

Mr. Karadzic was indicted by the Hague-based International War Crimes Tribunal for the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. His brother, Luka Karadzic, said in an interview here that the accused war criminal and his family feel "betrayed" by what he referred to as Washington's refusal to honor a "gentleman's agreement" purportedly reached with Richard Holbrooke, the former US special envoy in the Balkans, supposedly guaranteeing him immunity from arrest in return for his withdrawal from political life.

Recently stepped-up efforts by SFOR, the NATO-led peacekeeping force, to track down Karadzic, have alarmed his family, who worry that Karadzic's arrest may be imminent. "The family is afraid and in a state of panic. We don't trust the international court at The Hague to give Radovan a fair trial," says Luka, Karadzic's brother who is a prosperous businessman in Montenegro and Belgrade.

US-led troops last week twice raided hideouts where Karadzic was believed to be - near the village of Celebici, close to the rugged Bosnian border with the tiny republic of Montenegro. But the operation uncovered nothing more than a weapons store. NATO commanders in Bosnia have launched an investigation into reports that a French member of SFOR alerted Bosnian Serb officials that Karadzic's hideout was about to be raided.

Karadzic's daughter, Sonia, recently found bugs hidden in her car, while Luka and Karadzic's two other brothers regularly are bugged and followed when they enter Serb-run Bosnia, Luka said. Still, "Radovan is a great optimist," he says. "He is convinced that the truth will come out that he was never an aggressor, that he tried to prevent the outbreak of war in Bosnia. But of course he can't lead a normal life in hiding. It is very hard for him not to see his wife and daughter. He has three grandchildren, two sons of his daughter, and another of his son Alexander, whom he has never seen. He has to change location frequently."

The war-crimes indictment also holds Karadzic responsible for the brutal Bosnian Serb siege of the capital, Sarajevo, in which 11,000 people were killed or wounded. Karadzic's rabid nationalism inspired much of the bitter conflict between Serbs and Muslims that erupted after Bosnia declared independence from Yugoslavia 10 years ago. About 200,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the worst European bloodshed since World War II.

Karadzic maintains a comprehensive network of contacts who have kept him steps ahead of NATO. "Radovan can't use the telephone or a computer, anything technical that could lead to him being traced," Luka said. He declined to comment on reports that his brother is protected by a private army of hired gunmen.

The novels the fugitive is writing are "nothing to do with the war, nothing autobiographical," his brother says. A book of Karadzic's poetry was published in his native Montenegro last year. The former psychiatrist has long had literary aspirations, though his verse was dismissed as mediocre by critics in the past.

Luka says that physically and psychologically his brother is in good shape. "Thanks to God, he is in good health.... He is very strong. He believes in God and prays to remain in good spirits, and God helps him."

Luka scorned suggestions that Radovan might reach a deal with prosecutors to stand trial at The Hague in return for guarantees, as other indictees have in the past. "He will never surrender. He considers that court illegal."

Luka has set up an International Committee for the Defense of Radovan Karadzic in Belgrade, supported by nationalist intellectuals, academics, and writers. Many Serbs still regard Karadzic and his military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, as heroes. Calendars with their portraits are sold in markets. Their portraits often are displayed in shops.

Karadzic's family has "audio and video material," proving that Holbrooke offered immunity to Radovan, Luka said. "The deal was that he needed to stay quiet because they didn't want to have him around. Unfortunately, it wasn't a written agreement. But at the right time, we will make this material public."

"Radovan is convinced that one day he'll be free," Luka added, "and then I hope that the whole world will apologize to my brother."

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