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Last Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005, 01:44 GMT
Croatian fugitive held in Madrid
Gen Ante Gotovina in Spanish custody
Many Croats consider Gen Gotovina to be a hero
Key Croatian war crimes suspect Ante Gotovina has been remanded in custody in Spain, before his expected transfer to the UN tribunal in the Hague.

The third most-wanted suspect from the Balkan wars could be extradited as early as Friday, following his arrest in the Canary Islands on Wednesday.

Gen Gotovina, 50, is accused over the death of about 150 Serb civilians during a Croatian offensive in 1995.

His lawyer said his client would probably plead not guilty.

The general has denied responsibility in the past, the lawyer said.

Born 12 Oct 1955
Fought in French Foreign Legion
Commanded Croatian forces against Serb forces in Krajina region, 1995
Early retirement, 2000
Indicted for war crimes in Krajina, 2001
Arrested in Tenerife, Dec 2005

The Croatian government's failure to arrest the general had hampered the country's entry talks with the European Union.

Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said the arrest proved Croatia was right when it said Gen Gotovina had fled abroad.

UN chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said she hoped efforts would now be stepped up to arrest the top two men on the tribunal's most-wanted list.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic remain at large.

Public support

The retired general was arrested in a hotel restaurant on the island of Tenerife on Wednesday night, the Spanish interior ministry said.

He was said to be in possession of a false Croatian passport with an assumed name.

Gen Gotovina was flown to Madrid on Thursday and taken to the High Court, where a judge read him the charges against him.

It was unclear when he would leave for the UN court in the Netherlands, although Spanish media reported the move could be as early as Friday.

Radovan Karadzic: Former Bosnian Serb leader regarded as the mastermind of the Bosnian war 1992-95. Accused of ethnic cleansing including Srebrenica massacre
Ratko Mladic: Bosnian Serb army commander charged with carrying out the Srebrenica massacre
Zdravko Tolimir: Worked under Ratko Maldic, accused of involvement with Srebrenica
Goran Hadzic: Self-proclaimed Serb president of the breakaway Croat republic of Krajina
Stojan Zupljanin Bosnian Serb commander accused of war crimes around Banja Luka, Bosnia

Gen Gotovina was indicted for crimes against humanity by the war crimes tribunal in 2001.

He is alleged to have failed to prevent the murder of 150 Serbs killed by shooting, stabbing or burning during Operation Storm, the August 1995 push against Serb forces in Croatia's Krajina region.

The indictment also accuses him of co-ordinating a campaign of plunder and looting throughout operations in ethnically Serb areas of the region.

Throughout the tribunal's efforts to track him down, Gen Gotovina has maintained support from a wide section of the Croatian public, some of whom regard him as a national hero.

He was sent into early retirement in 2000 when Croatia promised to investigate allegations of war crimes among its military during the 1990s.

Croatia had claimed that he subsequently fled the country. He vowed never to turn himself in.

Hear the UN's war crimes prosecutor on the arrest

EU launches Croatia discussions
04 Oct 05 |  Europe
Evicted Serbs remember Storm
05 Aug 05 |  Europe

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