Bosnian Serb leader blames Muslim ambition at Karadzic trial

11th April 2013, Comments 0 comments

Bosnian Serb nationalist president Milorad Dodik on Tuesday blamed alleged Muslim hopes for an Islamic state in the early 1990s for Bosnia's bitter three-year war, in particular the country's first president Alija Izetbegovic.

Dodik, currently the president of Bosnia's Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, is testifying in the genocide trial in The Hague of his predecessor, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was for years Izetbegovic's bitter foe.

After the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991, Izetbegovic allegedly said that Bosnia should be an Islamic state under sharia law "which laid the foundation for the future conflict in Bosnia," in which over 100,000 people died, Dodik told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

With the conflict eventually engulfing Bosnia and its three ethnic groups -- Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks and Croats -- Dodik alleged that elements of Izetbegovic's party started arming Muslims and that the first people to be killed in the Bosnian conflict were Serbs.

Izetbegovic died in 2003 while the ICTY was investigating his role in the conflict.

Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and blue tie, Dodik seemed irritated as prosecutor Alan Tieger several times objected to Karadzic's line of questioning, snapping "don't interrupt me."

Karadzic, 67, himself a former president of the Serb-dominated Bosnian region during the Balkan country's brutal 1992-95 war, asked his successor to testify in his defence in a letter in February.

Karadzic faces 10 counts including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, most notably for allegedly masterminding the 1995 massacre in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica, Europe's worst bloodshed since the end of World War II.

He started off his own defence at the ICTY in October, telling the court that he should be rewarded for doing everything to avoid war in Bosnia and that he was a tolerant man who had sought to reduce human suffering.

Dodik has previously said that "Karadzic is an historically important personality as he gathered a strong political force and mobilised people to defend the national interests" of Bosnia's ethnic Serb community during the war.

An opposition lawmaker in the Republika Srpska during the 1990s war, Dodik has said that he never saw any of the atrocities that Karadzic allegedly committed while he was the Bosnian Serbs' leader.

Karadzic denies the charges against him, which also include killings during the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during the war which left 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million others homeless.

If found guilty, he could face life in jail.

After Bosnia's inter-ethnic war that pitted Muslims, Serbs and Croats against each other, the Balkan country was divided into two semi-autonomous entities, the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Serb's Republika Srpska (RS), overseen by a weak central government.

Before his election as the president of the Bosnian Serb entity in October 2010, Dodik was its prime minister. He is known for his strong opposition to moves aimed at strengthening central powers in Bosnia.

© 2013 AFP

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