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Karadzic Trial Resumes; First Witness Called


Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appears at the Hague tribunal in November.
The war crimes trial of Radovan Karadzic resumed today in The Hague, where the former Bosnian Serb leader is facing 11 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Karadzic is conducting his own defense at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. As Bosnian Serb leader during the war of 1992-95, Karadzic is held responsible for the atrocities committed by the forces under him.

This is the first time that witnesses have been called by the tribunal since Karadzic's trial opened in The Hague in October.

The first witness, Ahmet Zulic, today gave evidence relating to atrocities allegedly committed by Bosnian Serb forces under Karadzic's overall control. Zulic's testimony was read out to the court in summary form by the prosecution while the witness sat in the room.

Zulic, a Bosnian Muslim, described the harsh conditions at several Serb detention centers near Sanski Most in northwest Bosnia. He recounted how in 1992 he witnessed the killing by Serb soldiers of 20 men who had been forced to dig their own graves.

Zulic also described the conditions when he was transferred to the Manjaca camp. According to the statement read to the court, Zulic and 63 other detainees were severely beaten and forced to board a truck, where they traveled in extreme heat under a tarpaulin for several hours. "Due to the extreme heat, and the lack of air, a number of detainees died on the way to Manjaca," the statement said.

The prosecutor also quoted Zulic as saying all his wife's property was confiscated. "In December 1992, before she could leave the Sanski Most municipality, Mr. Zulic's wife had to sign a statement renouncing all of her possessions and property to the Serb authorities; she also had to pay the Serb resettlement bureau in Banja Luka money to leave the region," the prosecutor said.

Alleged Mastermind

During the testimony, Karadzic sat listening intently. He will have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness when the giving of the evidence is finished.

Key among the charges against Karadzic is the alleged masterminding of the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, and the massacre of some 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the UN "safe haven" of Srebrenica.

The Associated Press reports that Zulic will be followed on the witness stand by Sulejman Crncalo, a Muslim factory worker driven out of Karadzic's wartime power-base of Pale and into Sarajevo. There his wife was killed in the bombing of a marketplace in 1995.

Other witnesses expected to be called later include diplomats involved with peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia.

Karadzic denies all charges, and in an opening statement to the court last month, he claimed the Srebrenica massacre was a "myth," and that other atrocities were "staged" by the Muslims themselves.

Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in 2008 after 13 years as a fugitive. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.

The other major figure wanted for war crimes in Bosnia is the Serb military leader at the time, General Ratko Mladic, who remains at large.

With agency reports