THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Radovan Karadzic took the stand on Monday, mixing bombast with claims of innocence as his war crimes trial resumed after a four-month delay.
"I stand here before you not to defend the mere mortal that I am, but to defend the greatness of a small nation in Bosnia-Herzegovina," said Karadzic, 64, the former wartime president of the Bosnian Serbs. His people's cause was "just and holy" as they fought against Muslim neighbors bent on creating an Islamic state, he asserted in three hours of testimony.
A onetime psychiatrist and poet who turned fervent nationalist, Karadzic stepped down as the Bosnian Serb president after the 1992-95 Bosnian war, which took 100,000 lives. He fled from arrest, disguising himself as a new age healer. He was apprehended in 2008.
He is acting as his own lawyer in his trial on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The prosecution holds Karadzic accountable for what it calls four distinct criminal enterprises: the so-called ethnic cleansing campaign in eastern Bosnia, in which hundreds of thousands of people were driven from their homes; the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, during which more than 10,000 were killed; the execution of more than 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica; and the taking of more than 200 U.N. peacekeepers hostage.
Karadzic addressed the question of responsibility, saying, "I don't want to defend myself by saying I wasn't important, nor will I shift the blame to someone else." He then said others were to blame for the violence in Bosnia: Western governments that precipitated the breakup of Yugoslavia, journalists who sent biased and false accounts of events and, above all, "the dark forces" of the Bosnian Muslim leaders who wanted to establish an Iran-type Islamic state in Bosnia. Bosnian Serbs had no choice but to defend themselves, he said.