Karadzic Says He'll Defend Himself
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris. It was an important day at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Radovan Karadzic appeared in court for the first time. The former Bosnian Serb leader did not enter a plea, but he told the judge he would defend himself against charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. NPR's Rob Gifford was there.
ROB GIFFORD: Shorn of the long, white hair and bushy beard that helped him hide for so many years, Radovan Karadzic looked older and thinner in court but once again recognizable. He smiled at times during the hearing and listened intently as Judge Alfons Orie read a summary of the indictment against him. Prosecutors alleged Karadzic masterminded Serb atrocities during the Bosnian War between 1991 and 1995.
Judge ALFONS ORIE: The indictment goes on to allege that Bosnian Serb forces massacred thousands of civilians in and around the enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995. In particular, the indictment alleges that these forces executed thousands of Bosnian Muslim men at the places where they were detained shortly after they have been captured.
GIFFORD: Karadzic did not enter a plea to the charges against him because the indictment is being amended by the prosecution, and he said he wanted to see the details of the new indictment. There was also a question of who would represent Karadzic in court.
Judge ORIE: Mr. Karadzic, I see that you are alone. At least I cannot see counsel assisting or representing you at this moment. Is it your choice not to be represented by counsel at this initial appearance?
Mr. RADOVAN KARADZIC (Former Bosnian Serb Leader): (Serbian spoken)
GIFFORD: Somewhat cryptically, Karadzic replied that he had an invisible advisor but that yes, he would be representing himself. He became occasionally animated and defiant during today's proceedings, forcing Judge Orie to interrupt him several times. Karadzic claimed he had struck a deal for immunity with former U.S. peace mediator Richard Holbrooke in return for withdrawing from public life. The State Department today said Holbrooke has denied this. Karadzic also complained about the way he was detained in Belgrade last week.
Mr. KARADZIC: (Through translator) I was kidnapped and held for three days by civilians whose identity I didn't know, at a place I didn't know. My rights were not told to me. I couldn't make phone calls or even send text messages.
GIFFORD: Meanwhile, in the former Yugoslavia, members of Karadzic's family have had a travel ban lifted to allow them to visit him in The Hague. His daughter, Sonya, said it was vital that his family were able to help him at this time.
Ms. SONYA KARADZIC (Daughter of Radovan Karadzic): (Through translator) I can't say whether this trial will be fair. I can only say that I hope it will be. The most important thing is for us to be ale to see him and talk to him. We want to call upon all honorable people to help us in this fight in defending my father.
GIFFORD: The judge said there would be a second hearing on August 29th at which Karadzic must enter a plea to the charges against him. Rob Gifford, NPR News, The Hague.