AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic accused prosecutors of lying about his role in Bosnia’s descent into civil war to make up for a lack of evidence as he took the floor to wrap up his defense at the end of his long-running genocide trial.
Prosecutors are seeking the maximum penalty of life imprisonment against Karadzic [nL6N0RR48N], 69, a leading political figure during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia that left 100,000 dead.
He is charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide for crimes committed as Karadzic’s ethnic Serb army tried to rid Bosnia of Croats and Muslims.
But Karadzic, who is defending himself after refusing the services of a lawyer, rejected the charges in closing remarks at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
“Since the distinguished prosecution lawyer, Mr. Tieger, has no evidence, he chose to tarnish my personality, he called me a liar and mobster,” he said, blaming the recklessness of other politicians for the worst bloodshed in Europe since World War Two.
“He probably wouldn’t have if he’d had a single valid piece of hard evidence against Radovan Karadzic.”
Concluding their case this week after four years of proceedings in The Hague, prosecutors said on Monday Karadzic had been the driving force in a campaign of genocide.
Karadzic faces charges of genocide for the killing of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica, when ethnic Serb forces gunned down prisoners at execution sites.
Karadzic, who remained at large for 13 years after being indicted in 1995, also faces charges relating to the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo in which more than 5,000 civilians died.
Prosecution lawyer Alan Tieger said on Monday that the testimony of hundreds of witnesses and 80,000 pages of transcripts had proved that Karadzic had led a policy of “ethnic cleansing” - the term given to the campaign of killings and forced relocations.
Karadzic denied responsibility but said he would not point the finger of blame for the massacres, an event which galvanized international opinion and led to peace talks.
“I never blamed others for Srebrenica, because I do not know what happened,” he said.
The massacres in July of 1995 were the worst atrocity of the Balkan wars of the 1990s, which saw the breakup of the federation of Yugoslavia into six successor states. Kosovo, then a Serbian province, later also gained independence.
Karadzic told U.N. judges he had warned the late Alija Izetbegovic, leader of the rump Bosnian government in Sarajevo, that he risked plunging Bosnia into civil war by pursuing Bosnian secession.
“It was Izetbegovic who first suggested we divide Bosnia and apply his Islamic ideas only in the Muslim part of the territory,” Karadzic said.
“I actually anticipated what would happen,” he said “Hundreds of thousands dead and hundreds of cities demolished.”
In a final defense brief filed on Monday, Karadzic disavowed knowledge of many of the crimes committed in Bosnia, calling Srebrenica a “horrible act”, but not genocide.
Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Angus MacSwan