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Old 10-26-2009, 12:28 AM
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Default Karadzic genocide trial to begin despite boycott


THE HAGUE, Netherlands The war crimes trial of Radovan Karadzic, who led the Bosnian Serbs through a brutal three-year civil war in the early 1990s, begins Monday about 15 months after he was captured in Serbia. The prosecution and defense will each have one year to present their case.

Karadzic is boycotting Monday's hearing to protest his lack of time to prepare for the trial, saying he needs months more to get ready. His refusal to show up at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal is a blow to survivors who hold him responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during the brutal 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The case comes as a relief after the trial of Karadzic's former political mentor Slobodan Milosevic collapsed without a verdict after he died in 2006.

Observers agree that the 64-year-old Karadzic's absence from Courtroom One at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal should not overshadow the case's significance. Karadzic's trial is seen as a chance for the tribunal to make amends for Milosevic's ill-fated trial, which dragged on for four years before his fatal heart attack.

Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president, died during his war crimes trial on a sprawling indictment spanning nearly a decade from the opening shots of the Balkan conflicts to 1999 fighting in Kosovo.

Karadzic is charged with genocide one count for the 1995 murder of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica and a second for the Bosnian Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing against the country's Muslim and Croat populations. He faces nine other charges including extermination, persecution and taking peacekeepers hostage.

Karadzic has repeatedly refused to enter pleas, but insists he is innocent. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted at his trial.

Dozens of survivors of Bosnian Serb atrocities are traveling to the court for Monday's opening, at which prosecutors are scheduled to begin outlining their case and how they intend to prove it to a three-judge panel.

Seeing Karadzic finally face justice is enormously significant to victims who still cannot put to rest their memories of the horrors, said the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Belgian Serge Brammertz.

He recalled meeting a woman who lost 21 family members in the war and still has not found all their bodies.

The war left more than 100,000 dead, most of them victims of Bosnian Serb attacks.

Karadzic, who avoided capture for 13 years, is the most senior Bosnian to go on trial at the tribunal.

Survivors revile him as the man whose political dream of creating an ethnically pure "Greater Serbia" triggered the Srebrenica massacre Europe's worst bloodbath since World War II and the notorious campaign of sniping and shelling that turned Bosnia's picturesque capital Sarajevo into a killing field.

Karadzic worked hard to avoid facing justice. He says he cut a deal with U.S. peace envoy Richard Holbrooke in 1996 in which he agreed to drop out of public life in return for immunity from prosecution. Holbrooke denies making such a deal and tribunal judges say it would not be binding on them.

His whereabouts were unknown for years until his arrest last year when he was posing as New Age healer Dr. Dragan Dabic, disguised behind thick glasses a bushy beard and straggly gray hair.

Prosecutors wanted to try Karadzic together with his wartime military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, but Mladic remains on the run, one of only two suspects still sought by the court. The other is a former leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia, Goran Hadzic.
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