Danilo Krstanovic  /  Reuters file
Ljiljana Zelen- Karadzic, wife of Bosnian Serb war crimes supect Radovan Karadzic, protests from a window as NATO troops raid her house in Pale, Bosnia-Herzegovina, on Jan. 11.
updated 3/1/2004 12:43:20 PM ET 2004-03-01T17:43:20

Radovan Karadzic is the world’s No. 1 war crimes fugitive, but his wife sees him as a martyr who sacrificed himself for the Bosnian Serb people.

“May God look out for him. This is all I want,” Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic, 57, said in an interview with Associated Press Television News.

As the wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Karadzic is accused of having masterminded — together with former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic — Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, which took 260,000 lives and left another 1.8 million people homeless.

Karadzic, 58, and his wartime military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, are the two most-wanted suspects sought by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

Since his indictment for genocide in 1995, Karadzic has been on the run, presumably hiding in disguise somewhere deep in the mountains of Bosnia and surrounded by armed bodyguards. NATO peacekeepers deployed in Bosnia have a standing order to arrest him.

West maintains pressure
The leadership of the Bosnian Serb mini-state, which together with a Muslim-Croat federation comprises postwar Bosnia, is under constant pressure by the West to hand over Karadzic. The U.S. State Department has offered US$5 million for information leading to his capture.

But Karadzic’s wife, bitter over the manhunt, contends her husband kept his promises to a West that betrayed him.

Sava Radovanovic  /  AP file
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, in a June 27,1996, file photo.
“He made a deal with Mr. Holbrooke (in 1996),” she said, referring to U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton peace accord that ended the war.

Zelen-Karadzic insists her husband agreed to withdraw from his post as president of both the Bosnian Serb mini-state and his political party, under pressure from Holbrooke, who she says threatened to make sure the party was abolished and the mini-state not legalized.

In exchange, the U.N. indictment against Karadzic would be dropped, said his wife, who never saw a signed document but insists one exists. “Radovan is not so foolish to withdraw without a written trail,” she said.

Holbrooke repeatedly has denied any deal with Karadzic, saying he pressed for years for the fugitive’s unconditional arrest and that the suspect’s ability to elude justice for nearly nine years is one of the international community’s biggest failures.

‘It is better for me not to know’
Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, claims Karadzic has been hiding in Belgrade. But Zelen-Karadzic says she doesn’t know where her husband is — and that that’s the way it should be.

“I do not know, and it is better for me not to know. It is better that no one from our family knows his whereabouts,” she said.

A Fractured LandIn her home in Pale, a village 10 miles east of Sarajevo which used to be the headquarters of the Bosnian Serb wartime leadership led by her husband, Zelen-Karadzic lives alone and works as a psychiatrist in her own practice nearby.

Her house has been raided several times by NATO-led peacekeepers searching for clues to Karadzic’s whereabouts, and she has been under constant surveillance. Last year, authorities in Bosnia and the United States ordered her bank accounts frozen, and her family has been slapped with a travel ban.

“They even took my marriage certificate,” she said bitterly. “But I know I’m married to him.”

Zelen-Karadzic says she last saw her husband three years ago — for just a few moments.

“It almost didn’t mean anything to me, because in such a short period of time I could not discuss anything,” she told APTN. “It was just for me to know that he is alive and well, thank God.”

Zelen-Karadzic knows that a reunion with her husband is an impossible dream under the current circumstances, but knowing that “Radovan is free and with us” keeps her going.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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