Serb war crimes suspect hid in plain sight for over a decade

BELGRADE, Serbia – He grew a bushy white beard and called himself Doctor David. He pedaled meditation and alternative healing, sold amulets on a Web site and made the rounds on the lecture circuit.

Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader and one of the world’s most notorious fugitive war-crimes suspects, built a life on the lam that was public, if disguised, and seemingly unfettered by fears of detection.

The true identity of the bespectacled white-haired man, who looked a bit the unkempt Santa Claus, was unknown to his landlords, neighbors, the man who designed his Web site and the editor of the magazine for which he wrote.

Using the name Dragan David Dabic, Karadzic was practicing medicine in a private clinic, authorities said, and writing a column for Healthy Life, a small bimonthly magazine.

“He happily, freely walked around the city,” Vladimir Vukcevic, Serbia’s war-crimes prosecutor, said Tuesday.

After eluding capture for 13 years, Karadzic was arrested by Serbian security forces in the Belgrade suburb where he had made his home, snatched as he rode a public bus. One day after officials announced he was in custody, Karadzic, 63, awaited probable extradition to the international war-crimes tribunal at The Hague.

Karadzic has been indicted on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and other atrocities stemming from a campaign to repress Bosnian Muslims and other non-Serbs as Bosnia attempted to break away from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

Finding Karadzic, it seems, was not that difficult. He was hiding in plain sight.

Goran Kojic, who runs Healthy Life, said he was shocked to learn the truth.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” he said of the moment he was told that “David” was in fact Karadzic. “And then I realized it was serious when all these journalists started showing up at my door.”


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