Deadline day for Serb fugitive in beating

August 1, 2008 10:43:54 AM PDT
Friday is the deadline for Serbia to extradite a 21-year-old college basketball player charged in the brutal beating of a fellow student.Miladin Kovacevic, a Serbian national, fled the U.S. after Serb diplomats in New York helped him post bail and get an emergency passport.

The victim was Binghamton University student Bryan Steinhauer, of Brooklyn, who has been in a coma since the beating since May.

Kovacevic claims it was self defense and is refusing to return to the U.S.

U.S. senators have intervened on the victim's behalf, even reaching out to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and threatening to pull back aid to Serbia over the episode. Serbia has refused to cooperate, damaging relations between the two countries just as the nation's new pro-Western government was hoping for a new era in diplomacy with the U.S.

American officials in Belgrade delivered a diplomatic note to the Serbian government last week demanding that the suspect, Miladin Kovacevic, be returned to the United States by Aug. 1.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he has spoken to Rice about the case, and "neither the executive branch nor the Senate will rest until Mr. Kovacevic is returned to the United States to face justice."

"There is a great deal of leverage we have on the Serbian government and if we have to look at foreign aid, we will," Schumer said.

In a statement, the Serbian consulate in New York did not address the Aug. 1 deadline, but said, "The Serbian government remains committed to cooperation with American authorities at all levels."