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Serbia pays $900,000 to American's family

April 2, 2009 1:26:30 PM PDT
The Serbian government confirmed Thursday that it has paid $900,000 in compensation to the family of an American who was badly beaten, allegedly by a Serb. Government official Slobodan Homen said the money was paid to the family of Bryan Steinhauer who was allegedly assaulted by his Serbian classmate Miladin Kovacevic during a barroom brawl in upstate New York last May.

Kovacevic, a 22-year-old former basketball player at Binghamton University, jumped bail and fled the U.S. last June with emergency travel documents provided by Serbian diplomats in New York.

The compensation to the Steinhauer family will be used for his medical expenses, and is also a recognition that Serbian officials helped Kovacevic escape, Homen said.

The 22-year-old Steinhauer, of Brooklyn, was in a coma after the near-fatal beating.

The deal, made by the Serbian government and U.S. judicial authorities, led to an upstate New York prosecutor saying Wednesday that he will hand the Kovacevic case over to Serbian courts for further proceedings.

Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen had previously insisted that Kovacevic be returned to the U.S. to stand trial for the assault.

The case had strained relations between Serbia and the United States. Serbia, saying its laws do not allow extradition, had refused to hand Kovacevic over for trial in New York.

Homen said Kovacevic's trial will start in Belgrade as soon as the New York prosecutor sends documents on the case to the Serbian judicial authorities. He said this is expected in up to 10 days.

Homen also said the Serbian government on Thursday lifted a "state secret" ban on revealing information about the Serbian-U.S. negotiations over the deal.

The agreement, leaked to a Belgrade newspaper earlier this year, had triggered outrage among many Serbs, who said the compensation money should have been paid by the Kovacevic family, not by Serbian taxpayers.

Homen said that the $900,000 was collected by confiscating property belonging to convicted Serbian criminals, and it did not come from taxes.


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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