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Austrian court OK's extradition of Croatian ex-PM

An Austrian court on Monday approved the extradition of former Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to his homeland, where he is suspected of corruption while in office, but his lawyer immediately announced an appeal.

Austrian police detained Sanader on Dec. 10 after Croatian authorities issued an international arrest warrant for him, and he has been jailed in Salzburg ever since.

During a closed-door session Monday in Salzburg, a judge ruled that Sanader's extradition was permissible, Salzburg Court president Hans Rathgeb told The Associated Press. However, the 57-year-old will remain in Austrian custody until a court in Linz decides to either grant or reject the extradition appeal, he added.

Sanader, who was in power for six years until he abruptly resigned on July 1, 2009, has proclaimed his innocence in any abuse of office claims. He alleges the charges against him are politically motivated and designed to keep him from returning to high office.

Sanader's lawyer, Werner Suppan, claimed his client would not receive a fair trial in Croatia, the Austria Press Agency reported.

But Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said in a statement that "everyone in Croatia can have a fair trial, including Sanader."

"Such a trial will be held under a watchful eye of not only Croatian but also international public," said Josipovic, who is currently in Italy. "I am certain that our judiciary will bring a legal and just verdict."

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Jovana Gec contributed to this report from Belgrade, Serbia.