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Defence case begins in Mladic trial

Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic has launched the defence case in his long-running UN war crimes trial in the Hague.

Mladic first called a former Serb army officer who claims he was never ordered to fire on civilians in the besieged Bosnian capital.

Mile Sladoje, a former assistant commander of a Serb battalion in Sarajevo, was the first witness called by Mladic in his trial on charges including genocide.

A summary of his testimony read by one of Mladic's lawyers made clear that Sladoje will deny ever being ordered by Mladic to deliberately target civilians with a sniping campaign - one of the key charges Mladic faces.

Mladic, 72, denies 11 charges of ordering Serb atrocities throughout the 1991-95 Bosnian war. He faces a life sentence if convicted.

The indictment alleges Mladic was the military mastermind behind a deadly Serb sniping and mortar campaign in Sarajevo, and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica.

He denies the charges and insists his forces were trying to defend Serbs during the conflict that left some 100,000 people dead.

The 72-year-old stood and saluted Sladoje as he entered court at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.

"All military activities were defence activities," Mladic lawyer Miodrag Stojanovic told judges in a summary of Sladoje's seven-page written testimony.

Sladoje "never received an order from his superior command, nor did he issue an order... to attack civilian facilities," Stojanovic said.

Sladoje showed judges a map of Sarajevo dotted with circles which he said were considered legitimate targets by Serb forces.

"There was no part of the city that did not have a military installation or facility," his written statement said.

Serbs deny systematically targeting civilians with mortars and sniper rifles during the siege of Sarajevo, saying they were shooting at Bosnian Muslim forces holed up in buildings throughout the city.

Mladic was first indicted in 1995 but went into hiding after the war and was not arrested until May 2011. The former general's trial started a year later and prosecutors wrapped up their case in February.

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