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Suspect Flees as Australian Court Approves Balkans War Crimes Extradition

This photo taken February 27, 2003 shows Dragan Vasiljkovic in Belgrade, Serbia during a press conference

This photo taken February 27, 2003 shows Dragan Vasiljkovic in Belgrade, Serbia during a press conference

A war crimes suspect is still at large after an Australian court ruled he could be extradited to face charges in Croatia. Dragan Vasiljkovic, also known as Daniel Snedden, is accused of leading a Serb paramilitary unit during the Balkans war in the 1990s.

The Australian Federal Police was ordered to detain the 55-year-old suspect, but when officers went to Vasiljkovic's home near Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, he was not there. He remains at large. Media reports have said he was last seen boarding a boat at a marina near his home.

Don Rothwell, a professor of international law at the Australian National University, says members of the country's large expatriate Serbian community may be assisting Vasiljkovic.

"It is quite clear that he has a lot of supporters and sympathizers within Australia. So the potential for him to be assisted by all of those people shouldn't be ruled out. He has obviously got roots in the community, so it may take some time for the AFP (Australian Federal Police) to find him," he said.

Dragan Vasiljkovic is an experienced sailor and has held an international pilot's license. He is accused of ordering Serb paramilitaries to torture and kill Croatian civilians, during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. He has strongly denied the allegations.

Known as Captain Dragan, the 55-year-old suspect was teaching golf in Western Australia when Croatia applied for his extradition in 2006.

Authorities in Zagreb want Vasiljkovic - an Australian citizen - to face trial for allegedly committing atrocities during the conflict in the Balkans.

Last year, Australia's Federal Court ruled that he should not be extradited because judges were concerned he would not get a fair trial in Croatia. That judgment was overruled by the high court.

According to the Australian Constitution, the final decision will now be made by the national government, which will determine whether or not the war crimes suspect will be sent back to the Balkans - if he is ever found.