War crimes suspect Karadzic appears at UN court

Thu Jul 31, 2008 10:51am EDT

(Adds Karadzic comments)

By Alexandra Hudson and Reed Stevenson

THE HAGUE, July 31 (Reuters) - Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appeared before a U.N. war crimes judge for the first time on Thursday to answer genocide charges and asked for more time before entering his plea.

Karadzic, who was arrested last week after 11 years on the run, wore a dark suit and tie, and appeared gaunt as he sat alone, with a guard on either side of him. He occasionally wiped his brow and spoke in Serbian.

The leader of Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnia war is the most prominent Balkan war crimes suspect arrested since late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in detention in 2006 before his trial ended.

"You are Radovan Karadzic, aren't you?" he was asked by Judge Alphons Orie. "Yes I am," he answered.

The Judge noted Karadzic was alone. Smiling, the suspect replied: "I have an invisible adviser but I have decided to represent myself."

Karadzic faces two charges of genocide over the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two.

Offered a chance to have the indictment read to him, Karadzic said: "I am not interested in having someone else read me the indictment."

He said he wanted to see the new indictment prosecutors are preparing and asked to study it before entering a plea.

He appeared at the court after spending his first night in a cell at the U.N. war crimes tribunal detention centre in The Hague.



SHAVEN

Since his arrest in Belgrade he has shorn the flowing beard and long hair that helped disguise him as an alternative healer in the years following the war. He was flown to the Netherlands on Wednesday morning.

The behaviour of Karadzic -- a flamboyant figure when Bosnian Serb leader -- will offer an indication as to how he will conduct himself during his eventual trial, and whether judges can expect a repeat of the forceful display by Milosevic in the same courtroom.

Just like Milosevic, Karadzic has suggested he wishes to defend himself, a move which could protract the proceedings. Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said he would conduct the trial efficiently, learning from the Milosevic case.

"Of course it will take some months before the prosecution and defence will be ready to start. It will be a complex trial but we are fully aware of the importance of being efficient," he told reporters.

Karadzic's lawyer in Serbia had said his client would make use of the 30-day-period he is allocated to make a plea. Under court rules if he refuses to enter a plea, then a plea of 'not guilty' is entered for him.

Karadzic's delivery to The Hague was key to Serbia securing closer ties with the European Union and his arrest was seen as a pro-Western signal by the new government sworn in this month.

France, the current EU president, said in a statement that Karadzic's arrest and transfer "mark an important step in the process of reconciliation in the western Balkans and in the rapprochement between Serbia and Europe."

For more on Karadzic's extradition, users of 3000 Xtra can click on [ID:nL21245023]

For a blog on Karadzic and other war crimes suspects, go to here

For an Interactive Timeline on Karadzic please click here (Editing by Timothy Heritage)



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