October 16, 2012 7:46 am

Profile: Who is Radovan Karadzic?


TORONTO – The defence opened Tuesday in the long-running genocide trial of Radovan Karadzic, who claims he tried to prevent fighting in the bloody Bosnian war of the 1990s.

Radovan Karadzic is a former Bosnian Serb political leader who has been charged with war crimes related to Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.

Karadzic, 67, was arrested in 2008, 13 years after he was first indicted on charges of masterminding Serb atrocities during the war. He was a fugitive from 1996 until 2008 after the indictment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Extradited to the Netherlands, his trial started in 2009, though Karadzic boycotted it at the time, saying he had not been given enough time to prepare.

The first witness testified in April 2010, and prosecutors rested their case in May 2012.

On June 28, Karadzic was acquitted of one charge of genocide by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, but 10 other war crimes counts related to the war were upheld.

The genocide charge that was dismissed in June covered the mass killings, expulsions and persecution by Serb forces of Muslims and Croats from Bosnian towns early in the country’s war, which left 100,000 dead.

Judges said prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to establish that a campaign of murder and persecution early in the Bosnian War amounted to genocide. Prosecutors have appealed the acquittal.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic sits in the courtroom on the first day of his defence against war crime charges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands on October 16, 2012. Robin Van Lonkhuijsen, AFP/Getty Images

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One of the 10 pending charges is another genocide count for his alleged involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

His defense began Oct. 16.

Karadzic is a former psychologist and poet, and claimed Tuesday that he was a reluctant player in the breakup of Yugoslavia, saying many of his friends before the war were Muslims.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, portrayed him as a political leader masterminding Serb atrocities from campaigns of persecution and murder of Bosnian Muslims and Croats from early in 1992 until 1995’s massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the UN-protected Srebrenica enclave.

He is sometimes called the “Butcher of Bosnia” by North American media, though this epithet is also applied to General Ratko Mladic.

With files from The Associated Press

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