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'Ill' Mladic refuses to enter pleas

Former Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladic has told a United Nations war crimes court he is "a gravely ill man" and refused to enter pleas to "obnoxious charges" alleging he orchestrated the worst atrocities of a war that claimed 100,000 lives.

Asked by Presiding Judge Alphons Orie if he understood his rights as a suspect at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, Mladic said he was gravely ill and needed more time to understand the charges.

He gruffly told Judge Orie he did not want "a single letter or sentence" of his indictment read in court and when asked if he wanted to enter pleas, replied that he did not want to respond to the "obnoxious charges" and "monstrous words".

Mladic asked for the hearing to go into private session - meaning the public and media could not hear what he said - to discuss his health.

Closing his arraignment, Mladic told Judge Orie he "defended my people and my country" during the Bosnian war. He said he wants to "live to see that I am a free man".

His family said after his arrest last week that he had suffered two strokes while on the run from an indictment for genocide and war crimes committed in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Mladic appeared unable to use his right hand during the hearing and his voice sounded slightly slurred. Guards had to help him put on a headset so he could listen to a simultaneous Serbian translation of the hearing.

But he had lost little of the bluster he demonstrated during the war. He saluted - with his left hand - to the public gallery at the start of the hearing and gruffly told Judge Orie he did not want "a single letter or sentence" of his indictment read in court.

Judge Orie, nevertheless, read a summary of the 38-page indictment and all 11 charges.

After Mladic said he would not enter pleas, Orie said he has 30 days to do so and scheduled a fresh hearing for July 4. If Mladic continues to refuse, the court will file not guilty pleas on his behalf. Mladic's arraignment was his first public appearance since he went into hiding nearly 16 years ago.


From Belfast Telegraph