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War Crimes Suspect Karadzic Demands More Time to Prepare Defense

Bosnian-Serb war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic appeared at the Yugoslav war crimes Tribunal in The Hague for an administrative hearing on how to proceed with his case. He boycotted the start of his genocide trial while prosecutors argued that as supreme commander of the Bosnian Serbs, he is responsible for the persecution, killing and deportation of tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-95 war.

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Karadzic insists he does not want to boycott his trial, but he says he cannot take part in a process where his fundamental right to prepare his defense has been violated. He says he is working around the clock, given up his outside walks and sport and made an inhuman effort to get through the 1.3 million pages of documents that prosecutors have given him.

"I would really be a criminal if I were to accept these conditions and enter into a trial and proceedings for which I am not prepared," he said. "I cannot challenge anything that the prosecution is going to put forward with so much material unless I am given more time."

In the continuing back and forth that has slowed the process since Karadzic arrived in The Hague 16 months ago, prosecutors again accused Karadzic of manipulating the proceedings by refusing to attend his trial.

Karadzic says it is prosecutors who are manipulating matters by bombarding him with so much material.

Prosecutors say they have met all their deadlines for disclosure and judges reminded Karadzic that both the trial chamber and the appeals chamber have already ruled that he has had enough time to prepare.

When asked if he would be ready to hear the first prosecution witnesses Wednesday, he said no. Prosecutors said the court has the power to force Karadzic to show up. They also urged judges to appoint an attorney for him, something Karadzic opposes.

Karadzic said he already has a great team of legal advisors.

"I do not need other people, I just need time," he said. "There is not a single lawyer who will need less time to prepare than this defense-this defense under my leadership that is. If the distinguished ladies and gentleman of the prosecution think they can go without an accused, then they can act without a chamber either. Let them write up the verdict and send it to me. I have been working throughout."

But so have prosecutors, who say they are frustrated by their inability to proceed to trial. Their first three witnesses, all Bosnians who were expected to testify about alleged war crimes, have had to return home. And they recognize that even if judges appoint an attorney for Karadzic, the trial can still be delayed for months. For now, judges have delayed the trial pending their decision on how to proceed, which they say they will issue in writing later this week.