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War Crimes Trial of Former Bosnian Serb Leader Resumes

  • Lauren Comiteau

Radovan Karadzic back in court four months after judges suspended his trial for genocide and other war crimes charges

Radovan Karadzic is back in court four months after judges suspended his trial. The former Bosnian Serb leader is defending himself against genocide charges and nine other counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

Sitting in a lawyer's seat instead of a defendant's, Karadzic began his opening statement by saying he is not in court to defend his mere mortal self, but rather the great and long-suffering Bosnian Serb nation. He spoke through an interpreter.

"I will defend that nation of ours and their cause, which is just and holy and in that way I will be able to defend myself and my nation, too. Because we have a good case. We have good evidence and proof," Karadzic said.

Related video report by robert Raffaele

Judges had adjourned Karadzic's trial in November after the high-profile defendant refused to appear in court, saying he needed time and resources to prepare. But with the floor to himself for two days to lay out his own case, Karadzic suspended his boycott.

Flanked by a security guard, but not restrained, and with two of his legal advisors nearby, Karadzic insisted Serbs did nothing illegal by defending their own territory.

Prosecutors say Karadzic sought to create a greater Serbia by getting rid of all Croats and Muslims from parts of Bosnia through a campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

But Karadzic, who often referred to himself in third person, insisted it was Muslims who wanted to achieve an Islamic state by getting rid of the Serbs.

There was laughter in the courtroom from some of the dozen war survivors who came to see Karadzic in court. Munira Subasic from the Mothers of Srebrenica group says they are still waiting for truth and justice.

We ask the court to convict Karadzic as soon as possible for what he has done, she says. And to abolish his project of a Serb Republic built on the bones of our people, Subasic said.

Karadzic will continue his opening arguments Tuesday, after which prosecutors will call their first witness, a victim of the alleged crimes. Judges have denied Karadzic's most recent request to again postpone his trial. He is appealing that decision.

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