BELGRADE (AP)--Hardline supporters of Slobodan Milosevic rallied Tuesday in the Serbian capital to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the former Yugoslav president's extradition to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
The rally organizers, from Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, handed out copies of a printed statement to about 3,000 supporters at Belgrade's main Republic Square.
The statement demanded Milosevic "be set free instantly" and called for the "arrest of those who committed the act of kidnapping and unlawful" handover of Milosevic to the U.N. court at The Hague, Netherlands.
The protesters held Socialist Party banners and gold-framed photographs and posters of their former leader.
Milosevic's popularity has increased amid a resurgence of hardline Serb nationalism, which helped trigger the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s.
Following his ouster in October 2000, Milosevic was extradited to The Hague tribunal on June 28, 2001, to face charges of genocide for atrocities committed by Serb troops in the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Belgrade media reported that Milosevic himself coordinated the organization of the rally from his detention cell at The Hague.
However, it was a far cry from the frenzied nationalist gatherings staged by Milosevic during his years in power, when tens of thousands attended.
The reformists who removed Milosevic from power have failed to live up to citizens' expectations that they would substantially improve the republic's economic and political situation.
Milosevic has been regaining popularity in Serbia, with almost a third of people saying they trust him despite his war crimes trial, a recent survey showed.
The survey, conducted by Faktor Plus polling agency, also said that Milosevic - who was ousted in a massive popular revolt - enjoys more popular backing than the current prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, who took over Milosevic's presidency in 2000.
Intermixed with Milosevic posters at the Tuesday rally were pictures of two top fugitive war crimes suspects sought by the U.N. court - Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic. [ 28-06-05 1635GMT ]