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Genocide suspect gets bail

Plavsic: Nicknamed the 'Iron Lady of Bosnia'  

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Former Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic is to be released from U.N. detention pending her trial for war crimes.

Plavsic, who surrendered voluntarily to the Hague-based war-crimes tribunal in January, has been given permission to return to Serbia until the start of her trial, expected to be early in 2002.

"She will be released and she will reside in Serbia," Judge Richard May ruled after a half-hour hearing, attended by chief U.N. prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and Dutch government representatives.

Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic was also present, having flown to the Hague specially to support Plavsic's request for release.

Nicknamed the "Iron lady of Bosnia", and the "Serb Empress", Plavsic was a senior figure in the Bosnian Serb leadership during the civil war of 1992-95.

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Although she subsequently fell out with hardline Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, she remains a committed Serb nationalist who opposes the idea of a multi-ethnic Bosnia.

She was indicted by The Hague tribunal on counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for her alleged role in the civil war.

Born in 1930 in Tuzla in northern Bosnia, she studied at Zagreb University where she gained a degree in biology.

After two years studying in the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship she returned to the Balkans where she enjoyed a successful career as a professor of biology at Sarajevo University.

She entered politics in 1990 when she was one of the founding members of Karadzic's Serbian Democratic party.

During the civil war she served as Karadzic's vice-president before becoming herself president of Serbian Bosnia in 1996 after international pressure forced Karadzic from office.

No precise date has yet been set for her release, although Judge May said she would be freed from custody as soon as certain administrative matters had been cleared up.

Proesecutors had previously insisted that, if released, she should remain in The Netherlands. They apparently relented after Batic gave assurances that she would return from Serbia if summoned by the tribunal.

Florence Hartman, a spokeswoman for the U.N. tribunal told CNN: "She will still have a trial in The Hague, and she will still serve a sentence if she is found guilty."

To date Plavsic is the tribunal's only female detainee. She denies all the charges against her.

• International War Crimes Tribunal
• Major War Criminals/Suspects
• Government of Bosnia

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