Andrija Artukovic, the 85-year-old man ordered extradited to his native Yugoslavia to face Nazi-era murder charges, was flown by air ambulance early Friday to a federal prison hospital in Missouri.
The ailing Seal Beach man was moved about 5 a.m from his Long Beach Navy Hospital room, where he has been under 24-hour guard since shortly after his arrest last Nov. 14, said his attorney, Michael Dacquisto.
Artukovic was "upset, naturally; I think he realized he was going somewhere and they (his family) weren't going to be seeing him," Dacquisto said.
"He knew we were all going to say goodby to him," said a family member who visited earlier in the week, "and he was very sad."
By 9:30 a.m., the small chartered jet carrying Artukovic, a nurse and U.S. marshals had landed at Springfield Regional Airport, and he was taken by ambulance to the prison hospital, according to U.S. Marshal Julio Gonzales and an airport spokeswoman.
The government had not announced publicly or to Artukovic's attorneys when it planned to move him, apparently because of security concerns.
But the family had been anticipating the move since U.S. Magistrate Volney V. Brown Jr. declared last week that he could not interfere with Artukovic's transfer to the Missouri hospital--a move the government said would save the $35,000 a month it had cost to keep Artukovic at the Navy hospital.
Artukovic's attorneys contend that U.S. federal law requires that Yugoslavia foot the bill for any and all extradition costs, including hospital fees, and accused the U.S. government of "plain vindictiveness" in moving Artukovic.
Artukovic's wife, Anna, and two of his four daughters were with him at the hospital until about midnight, Dacquisto said, and had joined the old man at a special Mass they arranged for him in the hospital chapel Wednesday night.
Two of the daughters were waiting in the lobby early Friday morning when marshals arrived, but did not get to see him.
An official in Washington said Artukovic arrived in Missouri in "good shape" after an "uneventful" flight, and Dacquisto said the warden at the 1,103-bed U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners assured him Artukovic was "fine, walking and standing in the doorway to his room" Friday afternoon.
Artukovic, who served as minister of the interior in the short-lived Nazi puppet state of Croatia during World War II, was ordered extradited last week to face trial on a single count of murder. The U.S. and Yugoslav governments contend Artukovic ordered the deaths of tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies in Croatian concentration camps during World War II.