Karadzic sees no chance of fair trial

AMSTERDAM Fri Aug 1, 2008 1:23pm BST

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic stands in the court room of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at the start of his initial appearance in The Hague July 31, 2008. Karadzic faces a U.N. war crimes judge for the first time to answer charges of genocide for his actions in the 1992-95 Bosnia war. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic stands in the court room of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at the start of his initial appearance in The Hague July 31, 2008. Karadzic faces a U.N. war crimes judge for the first time to answer charges of genocide for his actions in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.

Credit: Reuters/Jerry Lampen

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has said it is unimaginable he could get a fair trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal because the world's media have already branded him a war criminal.

In a submission published by the tribunal on Friday and apparently the document Karadzic wanted to read in court a day earlier, the 63-year-old detailed "drastic irregularities" in his case.

"The first ... is the media witch-hunt which began in the Muslim media even before the beginning of the armed conflict and which proclaimed me a war criminal at a time when the only victims were Serbs."

This had continued in the international media, he said.

"It is now unimaginable to many people that this court could acquit me. I believe that this fact seriously jeopardises the trial itself."

An occasionally combative Karadzic appeared before the Hague court for the first time on Thursday to face 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including two of genocide over the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica.

He declined to enter a plea and demanded more time to study a new indictment and consider his plea.

In the four-page document Karadzic repeated and expanded on the charge he made in court that in 1996 U.S. peace mediator Richard Holbrooke had offered him immunity from the tribunal if he disappeared from public life.

Karadzic said he had tried to seek the same deal for General Ratko Mladic, also charged with genocide and still a fugitive, but once Holbrooke realised he could not persuade the court's chief prosecutor to drop the indictment he decided to "liquidate" him instead.

Holbrooke said there was "zero" truth to the claims.

"Such a deal would have been immoral and unethical ... It obviously didn't happen," he told Reuters in Washington on Thursday.

Karadzic continued in the document that he would have surrendered to the tribunal had prosecution investigators in Bosnia not passed themselves off as court representatives and tricked the Bosnian Serb government.

"It then became clear to me that I could not come before the tribunal," Karadzic said, adding a former chief prosecutor had said he would get a life sentence, which Karadzic suggested meant that the verdict and sentence was already fixed.

Karadzic, arrested in Belgrade after 11 years on the run, appeared gaunt in the court room, and had shorn the flowing beard and long hair that disguised him while working as an alternative healer.

The case resumes on August 29.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

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