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Old 03-01-2010, 08:19 AM
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Default Karadzic defends 'holy' cause in war crimes trial

THE HAGUE (AFP) Radovan Karadzic insisted on Monday that he did everything possible to avoid conflict and his people were victims of Muslim aggression as the wartime Bosnian Serb leader ended a boycott of his genocide trial.

Addressing the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the 64-year-old said he would use his trial "to defend the greatness" of the Bosnian Serb nation which had been endured centuries of persecution.

"I will defend that nation of ours and their cause that is just and holy," said a confident and measured Karadzic as he made his opening statement from the dock in The Hague.

Karadzic stands charged as the "supreme commander" of an cleansing campaign targeting Croats and Muslims in the Bosnian war that claimed 100,000 lives and displaced 2.2 million people.

Wearing a dark suit and tie, the wartime political leader of Bosnia's Serbs outlined his defence to 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in an opening statement scheduled to be delivered over two days. He has pleaded not guilty.

"I stand here before you not to defend the mere mortal that I am, but to defend the greatness of a small nation in Bosnia Hercegovina, which for 500 years has had to suffer and has demonstrated a great deal of modesty and perseverance to survive in freedom," he told the court.

Karadzic is accused of having colluded with the late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic in plotting the creation of a "Greater Serbia" that was to include 60 percent of Bosnian territory. Serbs made up about one-third of Bosnia's population.

He told the judges that "there never was any intention, any idea, let alone plan, to expel Muslims and Croats from the (self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb state) Republika Srpska.

"The Serb Democratic Party and Radovan Karadzic and the Serb people in Bosnia Hercegovina did their utmost, everything that could have done, in order to avoid a war," Karadzic said, adding that "fundamentalist" Muslims wanted all Serbs out of Bosnia.

"The Serbs were not engaged in action, they were engaged in reaction."

Karadzic showed the court a photograph of what he claimed was a Bosnian soldier holding the severed head of a Serb fighter.

This illustrated, he said, that the Serbs "were dealing with the raging bull, but the office of the prosecutor claims they were dealing with lambs and causing lambs irreparable harm."

Among the charges against Karadzic are the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 captured Muslim men and boys, and the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo that ended in November 1995 with some 10,000 people killed.

He responded that Serbs had acted legitimately to "provocations" from the enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa.

Often referring to himself in the third person as "Dr Karadzic", the accused presented an array of videos and documents to the court as "evidence" of his contentions, working from a computer screen on a desk in front of him in the dock.

Karadzic had refused to attend the opening of his trial last October, insisting on more time to prepare his case and causing a four-month delay.

Arrested on a Belgrade bus in July 2008 after 13 years on the run, he faces life imprisonment.

Karadzic had sought a new delay of his trial until June 17 after concluding his opening statement to study an additional 400,000 pages of prosecution evidence he claims have been filed since October.

His request was refused by the court which ruled last Friday that the first prosecution witness will testify on Wednesday.

Karadzic filed a motion Monday morning seeking to appeal that decision.

If it failed, Karadzic was likely to resume his boycott, his legal adviser Marko Sladojevic has told AFP.

The court in November appointed British lawyer Richard Harvey to take over the defence if Karadzic opted to be absent.
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