Double Life of the Butcher of Bosnia
War Criminal Radovan Karadzic Was on Facebook, Had Own Web Site, Even a Girlfriend
By DRAGANA JOVANOVIC
BELGRADE, Serbia, July 23, 2008
For 13 years, investigators combed the mountainous regions of eastern Bosnia, looking for Radovan Karadzic. A popular theory for much of that time was that the fugitive Bosnian-Serb leader was hidden away in a monastery, protected by Orthodox monks.
But it turned out to be the colorless boulevards of New Belgrade that provided a hiding place for Europe's most wanted man. He found an effective alter ego, in the guise of an Orthodox mystic.
New Belgrade bares no resemblance to Pale, Karadzic's war-time home in Serb-held Bosnia. But even in New Belgrade, Karadzic managed to find a place that felt like home, the "Madhouse" cafe, not far from his two-bedroom apartment. The cafe is covered with pictures of Karadzic and his contemporaries, Bosnian Serb war-time military commander Ratko Mladic and Slobodan Milosevic. Misko Kovijanic, the cafe owner and a longtime supporter of Karadzic, told ABCNews.com that Karadzic was a regular guest who liked to have a glass of red wine and enjoyed chanting and gusle music (traditional lyrelike folk instrument).
"He would always sit at the table from which he could see the photographs of Karadzic and Mladic," recalls Kovijanic, who is part of a small group of supporters. "We were singing of him, in front of him, without knowing that he was Karadzic."
People who live on Juri Gagarin Street, a street of gray Communist-era apartment buildings across the Sava River, felt certain that their new neighbor was some kind of mystical guru.
"He moved to our neighborhood early last year. I thought he was a spiritual man," said Danica Jankovic, a sixth floor neighbor of the man who assumed the alias Dr. Dragan or David Dabic. "His dense white beard and distinctive long hair, his long periods of complete silence, and the fact that he was into meditation left me with no doubt. I still cannot believe his true identity."
Unrecognizable, with long white hair, a long beard and 40 pounds lighter, Karadzic, under the new name, appears to have led a very different life than one would have expected from one of the world's most wanted fugitives.
He held lectures as an expert on meditation and health in front of cameras at seminars around the country. He had his own Facebook page, with a listing of 147 friends. He contributed articles to a magazine and offered medical advice on his Web site. The site promoted his David Wellbeing Program, based on the use of "human quantum energy," which says that people are "programmed" to live to between 120 and 130 years, an age that could be reached by those who had his treatments.
He even had a new girlfriend.
"She was a very elegant, attractive, dark-haired lady, who was by his side all the time," said a sales woman at Karadzic's grocery store, who declined to give her name. "They would shop together every day. She would choose fruits and vegetables, and he would buy fat-free yogurt and mineral water."
Earlier this week, as Karadzic was riding the city bus out of his New Belgrade neighborhood, he was apprehended by uniformed men, then blindfolded and driven away by a large group of Serbian security officials.
His capture on Monday was a result, not of better police surveillance, but of a stronger political will in Serbia.
Many believe that his arrest cannot and should not be underplayed. More than just the closure to a bloody chapter of history, it is a sign of the changing Serbia.
"Even if some think that it is immoral to arrest and extradite Karadzic, I am so happy for it," says 28-year-old Vesna Labus, a resident of New Belgrade. "It means that my 6-year-old, Luka, will have a life similar to the life of the children his age in the civilized world. We had enough of wars!"
The new pro-Western government of Serbia formed earlier this month with hopes of joining the European Union. The Europeans set a precondition: Bring to justice both Karadzic and Mladic.
Serbia wants a fresh start with the United States as well. Graffiti written on walls of Belgrade read: "Barack Obama -- always be with us." The mainstream newspaper is serializing Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope."
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has indicted Karadzic on charges, including genocide and crimes against humanity for the ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs during the Bosnian War, which killed 100,000 people.
He is charged with ordering the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serbs allegedly killed thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys.
Karadzic's lawyer, Sveta Vujacic, has vowed to appeal Serbia's plan to extradite the former Bosnian Serb chief to the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague.
Mladic still remains at large. Also at large is Croatian Serb war-time leader Goran Hadzic.