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Croat chief surrenders to U.N. court

Ademi leaves Zagreb's Pleso airport before flying to The Hague  

The Hague, Netherlands -- A Croatian army general has surrendered to the international war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands.

General Rahim Ademi flew to The Hague on Wednesday to be charged with five allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the war between Serbs and Croats between 1991 and 1995.

The highest ranking ethnic Albanian serving in the Croat army, he is the first Croat to face charges brought by the U.N. court.

Factfile: Rahim Ademi  
Tribunal spokesman Jim Landale on Ademi's charges
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The charges, which had been secret up to his surrender, specifically relate to alleged murder, wanton destruction of towns and cities, persecution and the plunder of property during a Croat offensive in the so-called Medak Pocket in southwestern Croatia in 1993.

Croats carried out the attempt to retake the area after Serb rebels had seized the region in 1991.

The Croat campaign killed about 70 Serbs, some elderly, as well as reduced hundreds of homes to ashes.

One of the victims is alleged to have been an 82-year-old blind woman shot while sitting on the porch of her house, witnesses said.

Ademi is currently undergoing a routine medical examination at The Hague, and could appear before the court on Thursday to hear the indictments and to enter a plea.

Jim Landale, spokesman for the tribunal told CNN: "The beginning of the trial is some way off."

He added, Ademi's surrender "set a good example," and the tribunal would continue to place pressure on those indicted to hand themselves in.

Ademi, who denies the charges, had flown into the Netherlands with his wife Anita and lawyer, as well as three plain clothes policemen, on a regular Croatian Airlines flight from Zagreb on Wednesday morning.

Wearing his military uniform decorated with medals, he told The Associated Press: "I am proud of my role in the war. I am not afraid of The Hague court's accusations -- I have done nothing wrong in the war and I will prove it there. My conscience is completely clear."

He was taken from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport in a Dutch police car accompanied by two unmarked vans.

The Croatian government had suspended Ademi at the time of the alleged incident. In recent interviews, Ademi has claimed he was a commander in a purely formal sense and that other military officers were actually in charge.

A second general, believed to be Ante Gotovina, has has been served a sealed indictment but refuses to surrender.

He has the backing of the opposition party in Croatia, the Croatian Democratic Union, also known as HDZ, and some of the public.

Leading sports stars, including Wimbledon tennis champion Goran Ivanisevic, wrote a letter to the government of prime minister Ivaca Racan earlier this month calling for non co-operation with The Hague.

Racan, keen to secure Western funding, gave consent for indicted citizens of the former Yugoslav republic to be arrested and extradited to the tribunal.

He forced a parliamentary vote of confidence in his cabinet, but the HDZ wants a referendum on the issue.

In 1995, at least 150,000 Serbs fled the country and hundreds were killed by Croats.

• United Nations War Crimes Tribunal
• The Croatian Government

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