Mladic ejected from court after outburst at judge

Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander was removed from the courthouse in The Hague yesterday for repeatedly interrupting the judge with complaints about his treatment, during what should have been a straightforward plea hearing.

Mladic, who is accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of the massacre of more than 7,500 boys and men at Srebrenica in July 1995, argued with Judge Alphons Orie over his legal representation. He said the court was imposing "impossible conditions" on him.

"You are trying to impose impossible conditions on me – a lawyer I do not want," he said at the hearing. The judge told General Mladic it was up to the court's registry, not judges, to approve the two attorneys. After being told to leave the court, a not guilty plea will be entered on his behalf by the court.

The former commander's Serbian lawyer Milos Saljic is not accredited with the tribunal as he does not speak the working languages of the court – English or French. Alexander Mezyayev, a Russian, who has also been hired, acted as legal council for former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and advises another notorious Serb ultranationalist, Vojislav Seselj, who is also on trial before the ICTY.

When Judge Ourie moved to rule that, in the absence of a plea, the court would enter one for Mladic after reading out the charges, the 69-year-old shouted: "No, no, no! Don't read it to me, not a single word." As Judge Ourie pressed on, warning General Mladic he would be removed if he interrupted again, he stated the first charge as genocide. "No, no, I'm not going to listen to this without my lawyer," he shouted as he removed his translation earphones. "You are no court. Who are you? You're not allowing me to breathe."

After being captured by Serbian forces on 26 May, General Mladic was extradited to the ICTY, despite his claim of being terminally ill with cancer. He returned to the theme yesterday, insisting that he kept his grey cap on his head during the hearing, ignoring Judge Ourie saying that it was contrary to the court's protocol.

"I'm cold, half of my body is hurting," Mladic said snappily, after being reprimanded about the cap, but he eventually removed it.

Several hundred survivors of the Bosnian war gathered in Sarajevo to urge the court not to allow General Mladic to mock it and to pursue a fair and swift trial.

"The survivors' accounts tell enough about the scope of his crimes and the court should not allow him to turn the courtroom into a theatre," said Satko Mujagic, a prisoner of war at Bosnia's Omarska detention camp, where up to 900 Muslims were killed by the Bosnian Serb forces.

Court spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic said that now that a plea had been entered, pre-trial status hearings would be held roughly every three months.

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