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U.S. demands return of suspect from Serbia

/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. officials met with the parents and lawyer of a Serb college basketball player and urged him to return to New York to face charges of severely beating a schoolmate, the American embassy said Monday.

Miladin Kovacevic, 20, who played at Binghamton University in upstate New York, is accused of repeatedly kicking Bryan Steinhauer in the head during a May 4 fight. Steinhauer, a 22-year-old student at the university, remains in critical condition.

Kovacevic fled to his native Serbia in early June after he was freed on $100,000 bail. That touched off a diplomatic crisis between Serbia and U.S. officials demanding his return.

In a statement Monday, the U.S. Embassy said its officials along with representatives from the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs met jointly Sunday in Belgrade with Kovacevic’s parents and their attorney.

“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the current situation regarding the flight of Miladin Kovacevic,” the statement said.

Kovacevic’s lawyer Veselin Cerovic said last week the student fled because he doesn’t trust the U.S. justice system.

New York police say Kovacevic was at a bar with friends when Steinhauer danced with one of their girlfriends, sparking the dispute.

Kovacevic’s parents claimed their son is innocent and that Steinhauer started the fight in a drunken state.

Last week, the U.S. government asked the Serbian Foreign Ministry to send Kovacevic back to America for trial, but Serbian officials have said they want to see the case against him so they can consider whether he should be tried in a Serb court instead.

Serbia’s laws do not allow the extradition of its citizens to the United States.

Meanwhile, two Bosnian nationals accused of taking part in the fight will stay in jail for the time being.