BELGRADE, Serbia - A college basketball player from Serbia accused of severely beating a schoolmate in the United States fled the country because he does not trust the U.S. justice system, his lawyer said Friday.
Miladin Kovacevic, who played at Binghamton University in upstate New York, is accused of repeatedly kicking fellow student Bryan Steinhauer, 22, in the head during a May 4 fight. Steinhauer remains in critical condition and has not regained consciousness since the fight.
Police say Kovacevic was at a bar with friends when Steinhauer danced with one of their girlfriends, sparking the dispute.
"My client told me that he did not flee to hide from justice, but because he doesn't believe in the American justice system," Kovacevic's family lawyer, Veselin Cerovic, told reporters.
Cerovic said his 20-year-old, 6-foot-9-inch client is not hiding. "He believes in the laws of his country, and that's why he returned to Serbia," Cerovic said. "His purely legal case is being turned into a political case."
New York congressmen have asked U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to pressure Serbia to return him.
On Tuesday, the U.S. government asked the Serbian Foreign Ministry to send Kovacevic back to America for trial, but Serbia wants to see the case against him so it can consider whether he should be tried in a Serb court instead.
Cerovic pointed out that Serbia's laws do not allow the extradition of its citizens to the United States.
"This case is perfectly clear. There is no extradition of a Serbian citizen to a foreign country," Cerovic said. "In case of evidence, he will be tried according to the Serbian laws."
As a condition of his release, Kovacevic surrendered his passport. A Serbian consulate employee in New York was accused of furnishing Kovacevic with emergency travel documents that helped him flee the country.
The Serbian Foreign Ministry has said the employee is facing disciplinary action for issuing the documents.http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080704/ap_on_re_eu/serbia_us_student;_ylt=Ajb_jGupfvcqLZ4Bv_0g1PN0bBAF