Mladic, the former general who headed separatist Bosnian Serb
forces, and Karadzic, the political leader, are both accused of
responsibility for the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in
Srebrenica near the end of Bosnia's 1992-95 war.
Looking frail, Mladic, now 71, was called by Karadzic, 68, to appear
against his will as a defense witness in the latter's trial.
The two men are on trial separately, each accused of devising and
executing a conspiracy to "ethnically cleanse" Bosnia of its Muslims
and Croats to create a pure Serb state following its secession from
the former Serbian-led federal Yugoslavia.
"I do not recognize this court. It is a NATO creation. It is a
satanic court," said Mladic when asked to take his oath as a defense
witness for Karadzic.
But, after being told he risked contempt charges, he asked security
to fetch his false teeth and the hearings began.
Bosnia's war, which was part of the bloody disintegration of
Yugoslavia, ended in a peace deal hammered out at a U.S. air base in
Dayton, Ohio, in 1995 after NATO air strikes that forced Bosnian
Serbs to the negotiating table.
Karadzic had a list of six questions he wanted to ask of Mladic,
focusing on the general's knowledge of the Srebrenica massacre and
the Serb siege of the capital Sarajevo, and how much of that
information he had passed to Karadzic.
Karadzic was expected to argue that the two had no common plan and
that he was unaware of his most senior general's activities, and so
could not be held personally responsible for the worst bloodshed in
Europe since World War Two.
Mladic gave the same response in
answer to each question: "I cannot and do not wish to testify ...
because it would impair my health and prejudice my own case," he
said, offering instead to read a seven-page statement he said he had
written the previous evening — an offer judges refused.
[to top of second column]
Proceedings were complete after less than two hours and Mladic was
led out, exchanging nods with Karadzic.
"Thanks a lot, Radovan. I'm sorry, these idiots wouldn't let me
speak. They defend NATO," he said as he passed, gesticulating to the
public gallery, separated from the high-security courtroom by a
bullet-proof pain of glass.
Beforehand, his lawyer Branko Lukic had told judges that Mladic's
poor health, the result of a series of strokes that left him
partially paralyzed, had caused gaps in his memory so that he was
unable to distinguish fact from fiction.
Both men were indicted shortly before the end of Bosnia's war, which
cost up to 100,000 lives, but spent more than a decade living on the
run in Serbia before their arrest.
They face sentences of up to life imprisonment if convicted of
charges that include crimes against humanity and genocide.
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(Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Mark Heinrich)
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