|Karadzic denies Bosnia war crimes||
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, on trial accused of some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War Two, said he should be praised for promoting peace rather than charged with war crimes, an assertion hotly denied by some victims.
Karadzic is one of three Serb leaders brought to trial in The Hague for war crimes during the violent break-up of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1999, in which more than 100,000 people were killed and millions were displaced.
Now 67 and still recognizable by his shock of white hair, he began his own defense on Tuesday against charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and cross-examined witnesses himself.
Looking resigned but relaxed and reading from a pre-written speech, he said Muslims had faked the circumstances of two shillings of a marketplace in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during a siege by Serb forces. More than 100 people were killed.
“Sarajevo is my city, and any story that we would shell Sarajevo without any reason is untrue,” he said, reiterating long-standing allegations by the Serb side which have already been refuted by the Hague tribunal in an earlier case.
Prosecutors at the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia say Karadzic was jointly responsible for the shelling of Sarajevo when Bosnian Serb forces besieged it from 1992-6.
He is also charged with being behind the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995.
“Instead of being accused, I should have been rewarded for all the good things I have done. I did everything in human power to avoid the war. I succeeded in reducing the suffering of all civilians,” he told the court.
“I proclaimed numerous unilateral ceasefires and military containment. And I stopped our army many times when they were close to victory.”
Some of the victims expressed disgust at his words.
“It is difficult to even describe how I felt when I heard him saying this,” said Kada Hotic, a Srebrenica massacre survivor who lost 56 male family members there.
“I lost so many family members only because they were Muslims in a territory that Karadzic desired to turn into exclusively Serb land. Is that peacemaking?” she said.
Karadzic said the first Sarajevo market place shelling, in February 1994, in which 68 people were killed and 144 were injured, had been orchestrated, as was a second a few days later. He called Russian colonel Andrej Demurenko as a witness and read aloud his statement, which said it would have been impossible for the Bosnian Serb forces to have fired the shell.
But during the trial of Bosnian Serb General Stanislav Galic, the tribunal had established that Bosnian Serb forces were responsible for shelling the market place.
Karadzic also said a famous press photograph of an emaciated man standing behind barbed wire in what was apparently a concentration camp had been staged.
Fikret Alic, the detainee who appeared in that picture, was watching Karadzic's statements from the gallery on Tuesday.
“It was a humiliation for me that even today he is maintaining that this story was made up,” he said.
The tribunal established in the trial of local leader Milomir Stakic, who was sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment, that detainees were beaten and tortured in camps including Trnopolje, where Alic was detained.
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