'I was true friend to Muslims,' Karadzic tells war crimes court

1st October 2014, Comments 0 comments

A defiant Radovan Karadzic on Wednesday told the Yugoslav war crimes court he was "a true friend" to Bosnia's Muslims, against whom he is accused of committing some of Europe's worst atrocities since World War II.

Speaking during closing arguments in his genocide and war crimes trial, Karadzic, 69, told the Hague-based UN tribunal "I was really a true friend to the Muslims".

"But this was all swept under the carpet," by the prosecution, said Karadzic, who is being tried on 11 counts including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Although he has taken "moral responsibility" for the atrocities committed by Bosnian Serbs during the Balkans' bloody 1992-95 war, Karadzic denies the criminal charges, including for his part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 people died.

Dressed in a crumpled charcoal suit, white shirt and maroon tie, Karadzic assumed the pose of a schoolmaster as he lectured prosecutors.

"I know the truth, the prosecution knows the truth, they are trying to delude the court," said Karadzic, his glasses perched on his nose and sporting his trademark bouffant hairdo.

Earlier he told the four-judge bench it "is the Serb people that stand accused."

- 'Moral responsibility' -

Karadzic is accused of being one of the masterminds of ethnic cleansing during Bosnia's brutal 1990s war that claimed more than 100,000 lives and uprooted 2.2 million others.

A final verdict in the marathon five-year trial is not expected before late 2015.

The president of the former self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb republic faces a genocide charge for his alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre.

Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and their bodies dumped in mass graves after Bosnian Serb forces overran the UN-protected enclave in eastern Bosnia in July 1995.

Karadzic said he would address the court on Srebrenica on Thursday.

In his final trial brief filed this week, he asked judges to look at mitigating factors should he be sentenced, including personal circumstances and his lack of prior convictions.

Despite still claiming his innocence, Karadzic also apologised to victims of the crimes, accepting responsibility as the serving president at the time.

Prosecutors wrapped up their arguments on Tuesday saying life behind bars "would be the only appropriate sentence".

They said Karadzic, along with late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, acted together to "cleanse" Bosnia's Muslims and Croats from Serb-claimed territories after the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991.

Karadzic is also facing charges over the 44-month-long siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, which ended in November 1995 with some 10,000 people killed.

He has 10 hours to address judges on Wednesday and Thursday in what his lawyer Peter Robinson described as a "milestone" in his client's case.

Milosevic died midway through his own trial in March 2006 and his military alter ego Mladic went on trial in May 2012.

Karadzic was arrested on a Belgrade bus in July 2008 disguised as a faith healer. His trial opened in October the following year.

He was absent at the start, telling judges he had not had adequate time to prepare.

When he finally made his opening statement in March 2010, he told judges the wartime atrocities blamed on Bosnian Serbs were "staged" by their Muslim enemies and that the Srebrenica massacre was a "myth".


© 2014 AFP

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