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 Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Top Belgrade official surrenders
Omarska detention camp in Bosnia (1992)
About 3,000 non-Serbs were imprisoned at Omarska
Yugoslavia's former Deputy Prime Minister, Nikola Sainovic, has given himself up to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Mr Sainovic flew in from Belgrade on Thursday morning with another war crimes suspect, Momcilo Gruban, who has also surrendered.

This is my duty towards those who have given their lives for the defence of our country

Nikola Sainovic
Mr Sainovic is indicted for war crimes in Kosovo, while Mr Gruban is accused of atrocities committed in prison camps in Bosnia in 1992.

Lawyers for the two men said they had given themselves up voluntarily and would defend their "innocence".

Last week, one of Mr Sainovic's co-accused, Dragoljub Ojdanic, became the first war crimes suspect to surrender to The Hague since Yugoslavia passed a law on co-operation with the tribunal last month.

Mr Sainovic is indicted for war crimes both personally and on grounds of command responsibility.

Nikola Sainovic
Sainovic is accused of involvement in the expulsion of Kosovo's Albanians
In a statement broadcast by the independent television station Studio B on Thursday morning, Mr Sainovic said his surrender was the "only rational solution" and he would "continue to struggle for the truth".

"This is my duty towards those who have given their lives for the defence of our country," he said.

His lawyer, Toma Fila, told journalists at Belgrade airport that he would enter a plea of not guilty and said he expected him to be released pending the trial.

"I expect to bring Mr Sainovic back in about three months," he said. "I expect him to enter a plea of not guilty on Friday afternoon."

Government representative

The tribunal accuses him of participation in a joint criminal enterprise - namely, the expulsion of most of Kosovo's Albanian population in a bid to secure continued Serbian control over the province.

Mr Sainovic was designated the Yugoslav Government's representative for Kosovo in 1998.

He is indicted on the same charge sheet as former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is already standing trial in The Hague over alleged war crimes in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia.

Mr Sainovic took part in the last-ditch talks at Rambouillet; their breakdown in February 1999 led to the start of Nato's bombing campaign a month later.

A member of the former ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, Mr Sainovic is one of 23 suspects whom the Yugoslav Government has asked to surrender voluntarily in return for guarantees of pre-trial release.

Omarska horror

Mr Gruban, who is also on the government's list, is accused of war crimes at the Omarska detention camp in northern Bosnia.

The tribunal says around 3,000 non-Serbs were imprisoned at Omarska, where beatings and rapes were common and where an unknown number of prisoners died.

Mr Gruban is accused of crimes against humanity and breaches of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.

But Mr Fila said he was "just a guard" and could be released even sooner than Mr Sainovic.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
"Nikola Sainovic and Momcilo Gruban came voluntarily to The Hague"

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