Serbian arrested in attack on American

October 29, 2008 4:19:38 AM PDT
Miladin Kovacevic, the Serbian basketball player who allegedly beat a fellow Binghamton University student into a coma in a bar brawl in upstate New York before skipping bail, was arrested Tuesday in the capital of Belgrade. Prosecution spokesman Toma Zoric told ABC News that Kovacevic was detained by Belgrade police on three suspicions: encouragement of abuse of authority, forging documents and infliction of severe bodily harm.

Kovacevic's lawyer, Borivoje Borovic, told reporters that his client entered a not guilty plea to charges relating to the abuse of authority and forgery of documents. But he kept silent on the third charge, i.e. the infliction of severe bodily harm.

In an interview with ABC News, Kovacevic's father, Petar Kovacevic, said that his son voluntarily went to a Belgrade police station for questioning, after which police detained him.

Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco, a Belgrade-based human rights lawyer, told ABC News that Serbian laws do not allow the extradition of its nationals unless they are accused of war crimes, so Serbian authorities have requested that Kovacevic be put on trial at home.

According to Serbian media reports, the United States has agreed to hand the case over to Serbian courts and sent over documents relating to the case three weeks ago.

Serbian officials and U.S. diplomats have refused to either confirm or deny the reports. If the United States has agreed to let Kovacevic, 21, be tried in Belgrade, the Interpol red warrant -- issued at the request of the United States -- will need to be withdrawn.

It is not clear when or if Kovacevic will be formally charged in connection with the summer beating of Bryan Steinhauer, who recently emerged from his coma.

Kovacevic is to be detained for 30 days and to be questioned by an investigative judge who will then decide whether to keep him in prison and open a formal investigation.

He was arrested along with Slobodan Nenadovic, the head of the Serbian consulate in New York City at the time of the incident. Nenadovic is suspected of abuse of authority and forging documents that helped Kovacevic flee the United States. Another diplomat, Igor Milosevic, helped him procure a passport; he was fired last month and is now in jail in Serbia.

Following Kovacevic's arrest, the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade released a statement saying that the embassy "welcomes the Serbian authorities' detention of Miladin Kovacevic and Slobodan Nenadovic. The embassy is cooperating with Serbia's request to investigate this case."

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