THE HAGUE (AFP) — Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic stood before the UN war crimes court Thursday to face genocide charges, in his first public appearance since his arrest after nearly 13 years on the run.
Shorn of the beard and long hair he had used as a disguise until his capture on July 21, Karadzic was again recognisable as the man who became one of the most reviled figures in the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s.
Wearing a dark jacket and tie, Karazdic appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to hear the 11 war crimes charges which were first laid against him in 1995.
Karadzic has indicated that he will conduct his own defence -- the same tactic adopted by his former ally late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who dragged out his own ICTY trial for years and died before it ended.
His brother was quoted Thursday as saying that Kardzic had prepared extensively for his defence while in hiding.
"He was well-prepared for his possible arrest and thinks everything will end well," Luka Karadzic told the Russian daily Izvestia.
He added that the authorities who captured Karadzic in Serbia had confiscated his laptop and more than 50 discs containing documents prepared for his defence.
The bulk of the charges against Karadzic focus on his role in the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 dead, and the July 1995 massacre of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the UN-protected safe area of Srebrenica.
If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.
As Karadzic was transferred to the tribunal's detention unit in The Hague on Wednesday, ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz warned his trial may not start for months.
"It will be a complex trial," Brammertz said. "In order to prove these serious crimes, the prosecution will have to present a significant amount of evidence including the testimony of many witnesses."
Karadzic's Serbian lawyer, Svetozar Vujacic, said his client would use his legal right to delay entering a plea for one month.
"We agreed in Belgrade that he would ask for a 30-day delay and he will certainly do that," Vujacic told AFP.
Still at large are Karadzic's former military commander Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, who is wanted for war crimes in Croatia. "Without these arrests, we cannot complete our mandate," Brammertz said.
Karadzic spent at least some of his years in hiding disguised as a bearded, long-haired, alternative medicine guru, Doctor Dragan Dabic.
Serbian media has reported that dozens of secret service agents had tracked his movements for months before his detention.
Some observers say Karadzic is likely to use his genocide trial to shed light on claims that a backroom deal with Western powers helped him evade capture for more than a decade.
"This is a political man, a former poet, he likes being the centre of attention," said international justice expert Heikelina Verrijn Stuart.
"He will try to use the dock to tell how he was able to escape arrest for 13 years and make revelations about the role of the West," she told AFP.
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