Wednesday, April 14, 2010

THE HAGUE, Netherlands | A Bosnian Muslim opened witness testimony in Radovan Karadzic’s genocide trial Tuesday by telling judges his elderly father-in-law was burned alive during the brutal Serb takeover of his village in 1992 at the outset of the Bosnian war.

Ahmet Zulic said his father-in-law was killed by Serbs “mopping up” survivors of an artillery attack on the mainly Muslim village near Sanski Most in northwestern Bosnia in May 1992.

Mr. Zulic also watched Serbs force about 20 Muslim men to dig their own graves and then slashed their throats or shot them, prosecutor Ann Sutherland told judges. Ms. Sutherland said Mr. Zulic was held in brutal Bosnian Serb-run detention facilities from June to November 1992, during which time his weight dropped from 198 to 121 pounds.

The chilling testimony was intended to illustrate the savage campaign early in the 1992-95 war to carve out an ethnically pure Serb ministate in Bosnia. Although Mr. Zulic did not mention Mr. Karadzic in the early part of his testimony, prosecutors allege the former Bosnian Serb leader orchestrated the plan.

Mr. Karadzic’s case is the Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal’s most important since former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died in his jail cell in 2006 before judges at the U.N. court could reach a verdict in his trial. The cases cover many of the same atrocities.

At the outset of Tuesday’s hearing, judges warned Mr. Karadzic they would not tolerate him taking hours to cross-examine witnesses as Milosevic often did during his four-year trial.

Mr. Karadzic told judges he did not plan to testify in his own defense. That would deprive prosecutors of the opportunity to cross-examine him about his activities during the war.

The first day of testimony came months after his trial started in October with the prosecutor’s opening statement. Mr. Karadzic boycotted that hearing to protest what he claimed was lack of time to prepare his defense against the 11-count indictment.

Mr. Zulic was expected to testify later Tuesday about being held in the notorious Manjaca camp.

He did not look at Mr. Karadzic as he entered court. Mr. Karadzic, dressed in a gray suit, leaned back in his chair and stared at Mr. Zulic over his reading glasses.

Mr. Karadzic, 64, is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly orchestrating atrocities perpetrated by Bosnian Serb troops and paramilitary thugs throughout the war. He faces a life sentence if convicted.

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