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Thread: Mladic Appears Before War Crimes Court

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    Default Mladic Appears Before War Crimes Court

    (CBS/AP) THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic faced a UN war crimes tribunal for the first time Friday for arraignment on war crimes charges, including genocide.

    Victims of the 1992-95 Bosnian war had gathered outside the courtroom to await the start of UN criminal proceedings against Mladic, the Bosnian Serb commander accused of orchestrating the worst atrocities of a war that claimed 100,000 lives.

    Mladic's appearance at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal is his first public appearance since he went into hiding nearly 16 years ago, when he was indicted for genocide and war crimes.

    Serbia handed Mladic over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, on Tuesday after he had spent 16 years on the run. Serbia extradited Mladic to the tribunal five days after arresting him in a small town in northern Serbia.

    On Friday, Mladic, wearing a suit, tie and cap, stood looking bullish between two guards as the hearing started. He took off the cap when he sat down and confirmed he could understand the proceedings. The proceedings got off to a slow and methodical start -- a pace likely to be maintained for what experts expect could be a years-long process.

    Asked whether he understood his rights as an accused person under the rules of the U.N. tribunal, Mladic told the court that he was a "gravely ill man," and asked for patience, but confirmed that he had understood what was said.

    Mladic gruffly told Presiding Judge Alphons Orie he did not want "a single letter" of his indictment read aloud in court. Orie proceeded to read out a summary of the indictment and the 11 charges facing the ex-military commander. Mladic sat stone-faced as most of the details were read, but occasionally shook his head in disagreement.

    Orie asked whether Mladic would like to submit his pleas on the 11 charges during Friday's proceedings, or wait and make his pleas within the 30 days allowed by the rules of the tribunal. Mladic then called the charges against him "obnoxious" and "monstrous," and said he would need more time to consider the indictment before making his pleas.

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    However, he returned to conclude the session with a passionate defence of his actions in Bosnia, easily overcoming partial paralysis of his right arm and the left side of his face, to denounce the "monstrous and obnoxious" charges against him.

    "I defended my people, my country now I am defending myself," he said. "I just have to say that I want to live to see that I am a free man."

    After refusing to enter a plea, Mladic shook off the helping hands of prison guards to rise at the end of the session after being told he must return to the dock on July 4.

    "I don't want to be held and helped as if I was a blind man," he snapped at the court.

    His final act before returning to prison cell, was to turn to his victims and to give them two military salutes while smiling grimly.

    He had entered the court as querulous and sick old man who has not been seen for 16 years, he left it 105 minutes later having regained much of bravura and arrogance of his deadly heyday in the Bosnian war.

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