BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 09:58 GMT
Karadzic wife denies helping husband
By Nick Hawton
BBC, Pale

The wife of Europe's most wanted man does not give many interviews. But the welcome was warm as I climbed the stairs of her four-storey house.

Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic
Zelen-Karadzic says her husband can cope with being on the run
Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic is not a tall lady but her handshake is firm and you sense a steely determination in her voice.

The interview took place in a big, pink house in Pale, a mountain town just a few kilometres from capital Sarajevo.

This is now home for the wife of the former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic.

Charged with genocide by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, he has been on the run for the past eight years.

"I would love to know where Radovan is," says Mrs Zelen-Karadzic, presenting me with a slice of home-made cake.

Clearly... we would do everything to protect him. But we are not in a position to give him any protection
Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic
"I really don't know because in that way he and his guards, and we - his family - are protected.

"It is better that we do not know."

Wearing a black dress and bright red jacket, she sits at the lounge table and reaches for a cigarette.

"The last time I saw him was almost four years ago," she says.

"It was a short meeting. And since then we haven't seen each other at all."

Nato peacekeepers in Bosnia have made several attempts to arrest her husband. Each one has failed.

Suing Nato

In January, the biggest operation for 18 months was carried out in Pale and the big pink house was one of the targets.

"When you have 40 completely unknown soldiers and civilians coming into the house at the same time, taking and searching through your intimate things, your private correspondence, your private documents, then of course it is not pleasant but we try not to let it dictate our lives," says Mrs Zelen-Karadzic.

Radovan Karadzic
Karadzic has last seen family four years ago, according to his wife
The family is suing Nato for the alleged $15,000 of damage caused during the operation.

Ljiljana Zelen-Karadic, 58, is - like her husband - a psychiatrist and runs a small clinic in the town.

She is helped by her daughter, Sonja, who ran her father's press centre during the war. These days Sonja practises Chinese medicine.

Both have been accused of protecting their husband and father and have recently had their bank accounts frozen and been banned from travelling to the United States and the European Union.

"Clearly, as members of the family, we would do everything to protect him," says Mrs Zelen-Karadzic.

"But we are not in a position to give him any protection. We didn't have any special accounts.

Karadzic family home in Pale
The Karadzic home was target of a Nato operation in January
"They haven't disrupted the work that we do at the clinic. But there was no reason to deny us visas for travelling.

"But we are reconciled with that."

The family insists they have been betrayed by the West.

They say the US envoy Richard Holbrooke made an agreement with Radovan Karadzic in 1996 allowing Mr Karadzic to remain free if withdrew from public life and resigned from his political positions. Richard Holbrooke has denied any such deal.

But Mrs Zelen-Karadzic insists her husband can cope with being on the run.

"He has always been an optimist. A cheerful person," she says.

"He is a psychiatrist by profession and that means when he is in a crisis he knows how to help himself."

Karadzic search ends in failure
14 Mar 04  |  Europe
Nato releases Karadzic aide
10 Mar 04  |  Europe
Nato raids former Karadzic base
19 Feb 04  |  Europe
UN says Karadzic is in Belgrade
11 Feb 04  |  Europe
Where are Karadzic and Mladic?
06 Jul 01  |  Europe
Profile: Radovan Karadzic
17 Jan 02  |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific