BELGRADE, Serbia – A Serbian student wanted in the United States for brutally beating an American schoolmate visited the Serbian parliament on Thursday in an apparent show of nationalist defiance.
Miladin Kovacevic, a former basketball player at Binghamton University in upstate New York, is accused in the U.S. on assault charges stemming from a barroom brawl last May.
Kovacevic jumped bail and fled to Serbia in June to avoid prosecution. The 22-year-old was arrested in Belgrade in October as the authorities here launched an investigation into the U.S. case against him.
But, he was released in December with a Belgrade court saying there was no danger that he will try to escape.
Serbia has refused to hand over Kovacevic to the U.S. to face a trial citing its laws which ban extradition. The issue has strained relations between the U.S. and Serbia.
Kovacevic visited the Serbian Parliament in downtown Belgrade accompanied by anti-Western ultranationalist lawmakers who have said that he is being prosecuted in the U.S. only because he is a Serb.
"Since I feel safe in this country, I came here to see how the parliament functions," Kovacevic said.
"I want to thank everyone who has supported to me and my family during the difficult past year," Kovacevic said.
He said he will never return to the U.S. to face charges.
A fight in a Binghamton bar left 22-year-old Bryan Steinhauer of Brooklyn severely injured. Steinhauer only recently emerged from a coma.
Serbia's parliament speaker Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic, of former President Slobodan Milosevic's party, said that she could not ban Kovacevic from touring the assembly, "because every Serb citizen is free to visit."
New U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and New York Senator Charles Schumer have demanded Kovacevic be handed over to the U.S. for trial.