Ratko Mladic scoffs at war crimes charges, asks for more time to enter a plea

Former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic gestures during his initial appearance at the U.N.’s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on Friday. He asked the judge for more time to enter a plea, saying, “I am a gravely ill man.”

ICTY via APTV

Former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic gestures during his initial appearance at the U.N.’s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on Friday. He asked the judge for more time to enter a plea, saying, “I am a gravely ill man.”

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — For years, Ratko Mladic impressed friends and foes with his barking voice and commanding presence. But on Friday, he seemed diminished — the swagger gone, his speech slurred, the feared warrior now an infirm and elderly man.

Mladic, 69, a former Bosnian Serb general who was arrested in Serbia last week after 16 years on the run, made his long-awaited appearance Friday before an international court that has accused him of genocide and multiple other atrocities in the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

He quickly dismissed the charges read out to him as "obnoxious" and "monstrous."

A few minutes into the 90-minute hearing, Mladic told the judge: "I am a gravely ill man. I need a bit more time. Please be patient with me."

Aleksandar Aleksic, a lawyer for Mladic, said Mladic had experienced three strokes, and suffered from high blood pressure and an intestinal hernia.

Mladic asked for more time to enter a plea, and the judge agreed, ordering him to appear in court July 4.

As the hearing ended, rape victim Bakira Hasecic shouted from the gallery: "Monster man! Butcher!"

Kada Hotic, who has relatives who were killed in Srebrenica, said Mladic taunted her when she threatened him.

"I told him he will pay the price for murdering my son," she said, adding that she drew her finger across her throat. Mladic could not hear her, but she said he gestured back, holding his thumb and forefinger close together to indicate she was insignificant.

"And I said, 'No, YOU are this small,' " she said.

Information from the New York Times and Associated Press was used in this report.

Ratko Mladic scoffs at war crimes charges, asks for more time to enter a plea 06/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 4, 2011 12:24am]

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