BELGRADE - Tens of thousands of Croatians have rallied in support of General Ante Gotovina in Split, following the transfer of the long-time fugitive to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Up to 100,000 protesters demanded that Gotovina be provisionally set free and tried in Croatia. The rally, organised by veterans of Croatia's war of independence, ended without incident.
Gotovina, 50, was transferred to the international war crimes court on Saturday after his capture in Spain.
The general, who went into hiding in 2001 after war crimes charges against him became public, was to enter his plea overnight.
The charges deal with the killing of 150 Serbs by troops under his command, and the burning of more than 20,000 Serb homes.
The 1995 lightning offensive ended a Serb rebellion and Croatia's war of independence. It also ended centuries of history of the Croatian Serb minority, more than 200,000 of whom fled from their homes in the aftermath.
Gotovina is revered as a national hero by most Croatians. Recent opinion polls by the Puls agency show that more than 60 per cent were outraged by his arrest and transfer to The Hague.
Gotovina was arrested in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Spanish authorities have revealed that the fugitive was travelling on a false passport in the name of Kristijan Horvat - which translates as Christian Croat - and had travelled widely during his time on the run.
The passport bore stamps of entry to Tahiti, Argentina, Chile, China, Russia, Czech Republic, Mauritania and Mauritius.
- INDEPENDENTBy Vesna Peric Zimonjic