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Page last updated at 19:48 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 20:48 UK

Secret life of fugitive Karadzic

Radovan Karadzic in 1992 (left) and in a recent photo released on 22 July 2008
Radovan Karadzic in 1992 (left) and in a photo released on 22 July 2008

Captured war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic spent years living in Belgrade and practising alternative medicine, according to Serb officials.

During a decade on the run, he had cultivated a long white beard and called himself Dragan Dabic, Serbian minister Rasim Ljajic said.

Mr Karadzic, 63, lived in a "very convincing" way using false papers, he said.

He even gave public lectures and was a regular health magazine contributor.

"He was involved with alternative medicine, earning his money from practising alternative medicine... he was working in a private practice," said Mr Ljajic, the Serbian minister for relations with The Hague war crimes tribunal.

'Friend to everyone'

Mr Karadzic's lawyer, Svetozar Vujacic, said that his client had lived in Belgrade for a considerable period of time, "while people who were in contact with him had no clue who he was".

Dragan Dabic at his home in Ruma, Serbia, on 25 July
The real Dragan Dabic appears to be a construction worker

"He did not have any security and he lived by himself" in New Belgrade, a modern suburb of large tower blocks, said Mr Vujacic.

The lawyer said Mr Karadzic was now looking like his old self after having a shave and a haircut at his own request.

Mr Karadzic's assumed persona was so complete - according to local news reports - that he had a girlfriend, claimed to have grandsons living in the US and frequented a bar which sported pictures of himself and fellow alleged war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic.

The owner of The Madhouse bar, Misko Kovijanic, said Mr Karadzic would often come in and drink red wine.

"I'm very proud that he came to my pub, and I'm very sad that he was arrested," Mr Kovijanic told the AP news agency.

Singer

Mr Karadzic is reported to have frequently played the Serbian gusle - a one-stringed instrument - in the bar, while singing songs.

Masquerading as an expert in human quantum energy, the fugitive was so confident in his disguise he even had his own website, and would give out business cards during alternative medicine lectures.

The only thing which was weird was that he was wearing black all the time and with that hair and he seemed to me like he was in a sect or something
Neighbour Milica Sener

Zoran Pavlovic, hired by Mr Karadzic to set up the website, visited his New Belgrade apartment and saw a framed photograph of four boys who Mr Karadzic said were his grandsons living in the US, Associated Press news agency reported.

He reportedly had a girlfriend - a brunette in her forties known only as Mila - who he said was an associate at his alternative medicine practice.

A neighbour described Mr Karadzic as a polite man who always said hello.

"The only thing which was weird was that he was wearing black all the time and with that hair and he seemed to me like he was in a sect or something," said Milica Sener.

Stolen identity

His card gave his name as D D David, D D apparently standing for his pseudonym Dragan Dabic.

Serbian authorities are reported to be investigating the identity of the real Dragan Dabic, from whom they believe Karadzic took the name.

According to Serbian officials, he died in 1993 in Sarajevo, though media reports vary, suggesting he was either a Serb fighter who died in the war, or a civilian killed by Mr Karadzic's men when the Bosnian capital was besieged.

Billed as Dabic, Spiritual Explorer, Mr Karadzic gave lectures comparing meditation and silent techniques practised by Orthodox monks. He spoke in Belgrade in May, and also in the town of Smederevo, east of the capital. Mila frequently accompanied him on speaking engagements.

In one lecture programme, he was billed as a "researcher in the fields of psychology and bio-energy".

Goran Kojic, the editor of the Belgrade magazine, Healthy Life, which commissioned work from Mr Karadzic, attested to the credibility of the alleged war criminal's alter-ego.

"The person I got to know was a person that everybody would like to be their friend," Mr Kojic told the BBC.

'No fear'

"He was a highly cultured man, he was very tolerant, he had a sense of humour, he was very positive, he was very intellectual - so he was a great person," Mr Kojic told the BBC, adding that members of his family had died in the siege of Sarajevo.

Karadzic's business card under his pseudonym Dragan David
Dragan Dabic's business card promoted him as an alternative healer

Mr Kojic said he never talked politics with Mr Karadzic - a professionally-trained psychiatrist who had last been seen in public in eastern Bosnia in 1996; their conversations were limited to health issues.

Mr Karadzic did not speak with a Bosnian accent, Mr Kojic said.

"He walked freely in the city centre of Belgrade and no one knew it was him," said Mr Kojic.

"I got the impression that this man did not fear anything."

Serbia's war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said Mr Karadzic had "walked around freely, even appeared in public places".

"The people who rented him the apartment did not know his true identity".

The owner of a nearby shop, Gordana Blagojevic, said Mr Karadzic came in every other day to buy yogurt and whole-grain bread, sometimes accompanied by his girlfriend.

"I was shocked to hear who he really is," Ms Blagojevic told AP.


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