Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic had his first skirmishes with the U.N. war crimes tribunal Thursday: He was cut short by the judge when he tried to protest his arrest, and put on notice that the prosecution will object to his demand to represent himself.
During the initial session, Karadzic also claimed his seizure and trial violated a deal he made with the United States in 1996 that the case against him would be scrapped if he left politics and did not undermine the peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war.
Karadzic appeared at a plea hearing one day after he was extradited from Serbia to answer genocide and war crimes charges for the murder of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats and for directing a reign of terror during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
He declined to enter a plea to the 11 charges against him, and told the judge he intended to act as his own attorney for the duration of the case.
But prosecutor Alan Tieger asked the judge to caution Karadzic about the risks of conducting his own defense — an indication that the prosecution wanted to avoid a repeat of the much-criticized trial of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic who died in jail in 2006 before his four-year trial ended.
“With all due respect to you personally, I will defend myself before this institution as I would defend myself before any natural catastrophe,” Karadzic told Judge Alphons Orie.
It was the first time Karadzic was seen in public since he dropped from sight more than a decade ago. He appeared thinner, grayer, but still defiant, self-confident and able to joke.
The full beard, long hair and loose white clothes that he wore when posing as a new age psychologist in Belgrade were replaced by a clean shave, fresh haircut and a business suit with a black briefcase.