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3 Nov, 2009 21:52

Karadzic makes his first court appearance

Former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic has appeared in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), in The Hague for his trial.

This ended the three-day boycott of hearings by Karadzic, who claimed he needed more time to prepare for his defense.

“I have to look through all the materials in order for me to systemize them, and we are rapidly creating a system. We can't do it faster than we are,” he said in his address to the tribunal on Tuesday. “For nine months I was not given the proper materials to prepare for the trial. And I have had only five months to prepare.”

The 64-year-old has been charged with two counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in the republics of the former Yugoslavia in the early nineties.

Karadzic has maintained his innocence, but made no official plea.

He addressed the court, saying that he no longer plans to boycott the trial, but is interested in the proceedings being fair.

“I in no way wish to boycott this process,” he said, adding that the process was very important for him and the people he represents. “But I cannot take part in something that has been bad from the start,” Karadzic said.

“That is the last opportunity for arriving at the truth and we can arrive at that truth if my defense functions properly,” he went on. “However, had we had this trial chamber with us from the beginning, they would have been able to see how many times I’ve asked for disclosure on a regular basis and on time. Even Lord Bonomy [the Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 2004-2009] gave certain instructions in that respect,” he added.

Karadzic was arrested by Serbian intelligence in July 2008 after he had spent over 12 years in hiding.

The charges brought against him date back to 1992-95 and include war crimes and genocide, such as the massacre of some 7,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica and the forcible removal of the women, young children and some elderly men from the town in 1995.

Karadzic, however, insists he is innocent.

“There is a fine fiber that is being tested here. The prosecution wants to involve us in a civil war,” Karadzic said. “They are saying that we wanted to throw out all the Muslims and all the Croats from the territories which we thought we owned.

If convicted, the former Bosnian Serb leader faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

John Laughland, Director of Studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, said that what The Hague is doing is covering up NATO's wrongdoings:

“Of course the Hague tribunal is unfair towards Serbs,” he said.

Karadzic still not allowed to talk to RT

In September, ahead of the trial, Karadzic asked the head of the International Criminal Tribunal for permission to give an interview to RT. He wanted to present his views regarding the charges against him.

However, for two months the court has been refusing to allow the former Bosnian Serb leader address the audience through RT, claiming that camera and recording equipment were not allowed in the Scheveningen prison where he is being held. Karadzic disputes this reasoning, saying lawyers visiting detainees bring such equipment with them daily.

RT was the first international news station to ask the Tribunal for an interview with Karadzic.