Image: A policeman stands in front of the Serbian Presidency building in central Belgrade
Marko Djurica  /  Reuters
A policeman stands in front of the Serbian Presidency building in central Belgrade on Thursday.
updated 5/21/2009 11:39:47 AM ET 2009-05-21T15:39:47

A man with a hand grenade who entered the Serbian president's headquarters Thursday and threatened to detonate the device if his court case was not settled by mid-afternoon has been disarmed, officials said.

President Boris Tadic's press spokeswoman Jasmina Stojanov said that police disarmed the man who had threatened to blow himself up if his court case was not resolved within the day.

No details of the police action were immediately available.

The 4 p.m. (10 a.m. ET) deadline passed without the sound of an explosion.

President Boris Tadic's office said the leader entered after the standoff began, but it would not say why he went into building, where SWAT teams were dealing with the situation.

Bankrupt businessman?
The man, identified by one official as bankrupt businessman Dragan Maric, was seated in a small lobby at a side entrance, surrounded by shielded policemen pointing guns at him while negotiators tried to persuade him to surrender, Belgrade's independent B-92 radio said.

The official said Maric, 57, had announced his plan in an e-mail, saying he would blow himself up if a court did not rule in his favor in an unspecified case by 4 p.m. The official refused to be named because she was not entitled to discuss the incident.

A court spokeswoman said no case connected to Maric was being tried but that he had recently made death threats against court officials.

Police stopped all traffic in the busy downtown area.

Many people, including office workers, were still inside the president's headquarters, which is in a park across from the parliament building. The president's spokeswoman moved back and forth between the building and reporters.

Hunger strike
Maric, once a wealthy businessman, has staged several public hunger strikes since his company went bankrupt in the early 2000s. In 2004, he threatened to burn himself alive. He also offered his kidney for sale that year to get money for living.

"Even death is better than tyranny," the man said in the e-email, according to the unidentified official, who refused to be named because she was not entitled to discuss the incident.

The Belgrade Trade Court, which deals with financial cases, is not trying any case connected with Maric, spokeswoman Marina Ivanovic said. But Maric recently made several death treats against the court officials, she said.

The incident follows U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit Wednesday to Belgrade, which nationalists opposed. The United States recognized Kosovo's declared independence from Serbia last year, a change Serbia has vowed never to accept.

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