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Mladic disrupts court, gets not-guilty pleas

Updated: 2011-07-04 18:31


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THE HAGUE, Netherlands - A defiant Ratko Mladic plunged his Yugoslav war crimes tribunal arraignment into chaos Monday, repeatedly shouting at judges, defying their orders and refusing to enter pleas to 11 charges before the presiding judge threw him out of the hearing.

Mladic disrupts court, gets not-guilty pleas
People watch the television broadcast of former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic's court proceedings in a small restaurant near Memorial Center in Potocari, near Srebrenica July 4, 2011.  [Photo/Agencies]

After a brief adjournment to have Mladic removed, Presiding Judge Alphons Orie then resumed the hearing and formally entered not guilty pleas on Mladic's behalf, in line with court rules for suspects who refuse to plead.

Shortly before guards escorted Mladic from court, he shouted at Orie, "You want to impose my defense, what kind of a court are you?"

Mladic, 69, is accused of masterminding the worst Serb atrocities of Bosnia's 1992-95 war. He is accused of genocide as the top military official overseeing the 1995 killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, in Europe's worst mass killing since World War II.

Mladic was disruptive and argumentative from the outset Monday at only his second appearance before the U.N. court since being extradited by Serbia just over a month ago.

He put on a cap and gestured to members of the public in open defiance of orders from Orie. Speaking out of turn, he told Orie he wanted to wear the cap because his head was cold.

Mladic had threatened to boycott the hearing because court officials have not yet appointed the Serbian and Russian lawyers he wants to represent him at his trial.

Orie told Mladic it was up to the court's registry, not judges, to approve the two attorneys.

When Orie asked Mladic whether he was ready to hear the charges, Mladic responded "You can do whatever you want."

But when Orie began speaking, Mladic said "No, no, no! Don't read it to me, not another word," and pulled off his earphones. After Orie warned him to be quiet or he would be removed, Mladic shot back: "Remove me."

Victims were not surprised by Mladic's behavior in court.

"He showed who he is and what he is like. He displayed no regret and doesn't want justice for the victims," said Hatidia Mehmedovic, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre who traveled to the Netherlands to watch Monday's hearing.

After entering the pleas, Orie adjourned the hearing without setting a date for trial or scheduling another hearing. It is likely Mladic's lawyers will be approved by the registry after filing proper papers, and then judges can set a date for the next pretrial hearing.

Orie told court-appointed lawyer Aleksander Aleksic that if he is able to communicate with Mladic, he should inform him of his not-guilty pleas and that he has the option of changing them at any time.


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