Radovan Karadzic accuses first witness at genocide trial of being ‘biased and insincere’

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Karadzic says first witness against him is biased

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Bosnian Muslim wept Wednesday as he testified at Radovan Karadzic’s genocide trial that his wife was killed by a shell that slammed into a crowded Sarajevo market.

Sulejman Crncalo wiped away tears with a handkerchief as he told judges of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal about trying to raise his two children after the shelling of the Markale market on Aug. 28, 1995, killing dozens of shoppers.

The market attack, blamed on Bosnian Serb artillery, was one of the worst single atrocities of the deadly four-year siege of Sarajevo and triggered NATO air strikes on Bosnian Serb forces.

Karadzic disputes Serb responsibility for the Markale attack and told Crncalo he would show “who you can blame for it.” Serbs have always blamed Muslim forces for the shelling, which prosecutors say killed 43 and injured 75.

Karadzic offered Crncalo condolences for his loss, but then calmly grilled him about the incident that killed his wife. “What did these pools of blood look like?” he asked.

Karadzic faces two counts of genocide and nine other war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. He insists he is innocent but faces life imprisonment if convicted. He claims Muslims were plotting to turn Bosnia into an Islamic republic before the 1992-95 war.

In the first witness testimony directly mentioning Karadzic, Crncalo also said he heard the former Bosnian Serb leader say in a 1992 speech that “every Muslim house” in Karadzic’s wartime power base of Pale should be destroyed as a way of protecting Serb homes.

“These were terrible words for our ears,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Karadzic accused the first prosecution witness of fabricating an account of a mass murder.

Karadzic, who is conducting his own defense, spent more than three hours seeking to discredit Bosnian Muslim mine worker Ahmet Zulic, who testified for almost 90 minutes.

Zulic told the U.N. court Tuesday that he witnessed the June 1992 massacre of some 20 Muslim men who were forced to dig their own graves and then were shot or had their throats cut by a Serb butcher. Zulic said he only survived the slayings because his old school teacher intervened on his behalf.

Karadzic, peering over his glasses and waving his right hand for emphasis, dismissed the event as a lie and said the butcher was prepared to sue Zulic for “libel and perjury.”

“I maintain you made up the whole event,” he said.

Zulic responded by pointing to a scar on his throat he said the butcher left when he started to cut him. He said Serbs also smashed out some of his teeth when they jammed the barrel of a gun into his mouth during the same incident.

Presiding judge O-Gon Kwon repeatedly urged Karadzic to “move on” during the lengthy cross examination.

“Bear in mind you are not giving evidence,” Kwon told Karadzic. “Just question the witness.”

Karadzic’s decision to defend himself and bombard the witness with questions echoes the defense strategy of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic.

Milosevic’s trial at the same court was aborted without a verdict after four years when he died of a heart attack in 2006.

Both former leaders were charged with allegedly masterminding Serb atrocities throughout Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. Milosevic was further charged over Serb crimes in Croatia and Kosovo.

Zulic claimed Serb forces crippled him with repeated beatings in 1992 while holding him and other Muslims expelled from their homes in makeshift detention facilities in a cramped garage and a cattle shed.

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