Former Bosnian Serb leader to appear at pre-trial hearing

Other News Materials 17 September 2008 15:16 (UTC +04:00)

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was returning to court Wednesday for a hearing to continue preparations for his U.N. genocide and crimes against humanity trial, reported CNN.

Radovan Karadzic refused to enter a plea on war crimes and genocide charges.

Scottish judge Iain Bonomy set aside two hours for the hearing at which prosecutors will explain steps they have taken to pave the way for Karadzic's long-awaited trial.

Karadzic, 63, faces 11 counts, including genocide, for allegedly masterminding atrocities, including the slaughter of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995, and the deadly siege of Sarajevo, when he was president of the breakaway Bosnian Serb republic.

Bonomy registered not guilty pleas to all charges after Karadzic twice refused to enter pleas.

Karadzic was arrested on a Belgrade bus in July after 13 years on the run. At the time, he was disguised with flowing white hair and a bushy beard and working as a new age healer under the assumed name of Dr. Dragan Dabic.

Since his arrest, Karadzic has had a haircut and shave and now looks like an older version of the politician whose firebrand nationalist rhetoric helped plunge Bosnia into its bloody 1992-95 war.

Karadzic intends to defend himself with the help of a team of legal advisers. He will likely use Wednesday's hearing to repeat his claim that he was promised immunity from prosecution in return for disappearing from the public eye in a 1996 deal with U.S. peace envoy Richard Holbrooke -- a claim Holbrooke has repeatedly denied.

Prosecutors are expected to tell Bonomy at Wednesday's hearing about their progress in updating the indictment against Karadzic.

The indictment is currently 25 pages long and was last updated more than eight years ago. Prosecutors are in the process of updating it to take into account new evidence uncovered or presented in trials since 2000.

Bonomy has urged prosecutors to complete their review as soon as possible.

At an Aug. 29 hearing, prosecutors said they hoped to be ready by the end of September. "I sincerely hope you are not serious about that date," Bonomy told prosecutor Alan Tieger.

The court is under pressure from the Security Council to complete its cases and close its doors by 2010. Karadzic's capture and looming trial mean the tribunal is sure to miss that deadline.

Prosecutors have indicted 161 suspects on war crimes charges and convicted 57. Only two indicted suspects remain on the run -- Karadzic's former military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, and a one-time leader of Serbs in Croatia, Goran Hadzic.