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Karadzic Plea Entered As Not Guilty At UN Court

Radovan Karadzic in the UN court in The Hague, 29 Aug 2008

THE HAGUE, (Reuters) -- The tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for war crimes and genocide charges after he refused to plead.

Karadzic, responding to an amended indictment against him for charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the 1992-95 Bosnian war, refused to enter pleas for all 11 charges against him in front of presiding judge Iain Bonomy.

"I'm not going to enter a plea at all. This tribunal does not have the right to try me," Karadzic said, raising his voice as he faced the courtroom alone, flanked by two guards.

Karadzic, 63, is representing himself at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Bonomy asked, before swiftly closing the 10-minute hearing: "For the avoidance of any doubt, is it your intention that you do not intend to plead guilty or not to all charges?"

"Yes, but...," said Karadzic, before the judge cut him off, entered a plea of not guilty for him and ended the hearing.

Bonomy, who chairs a working group aimed at speeding up tribunal trials, is expected to avoid lengthy proceedings like the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, which lasted four years and had nearly 300 witnesses before his death in 2006 and before a ruling could be handed down.

Milosevic also refused to enter a plea and represented himself.

Although Karadzic had already been asked in August 2008 to enter a plea -- to which he also refused to respond -- the pretrial hearing on March 3 was called because prosecutors had since filed an amended indictment against him.

The new indictment contains the same number of charges -- 11, including two of genocide -- but narrows the scope of alleged criminal acts during the Bosnian war and reduces the areas where they were committed, which prosecutors say will lead to a more efficient trial.

Karadzic was arrested in July 2008 after 11 years on the run, and faces life in prison for crimes against humanity, murder, deportation, terror and unlawful attacks on civilians, and the taking of hostages, including the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica.

Flanked by two court guards and wearing a dark suit, striped shirt and blue tie, Karadzic repeated his complaints that he had not been given enough time to assemble a team of advisers to assist him in his defense and challenged the court's legitimacy.

"My time is being cut short," Karadzic said. "I still don't have a team of my own through no fault of my own."