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War crimes fugitive Mladic in court

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Ratko Mladic enters court in Belgrade (AP/RTS TV via APTN)

Ratko Mladic enters court in Belgrade (AP/RTS TV via APTN)

Under arrest: Former Bosnian Serb military leader Mladic

Under arrest: Former Bosnian Serb military leader Mladic

Supporters of Ratko Mladic wave Serbian flags at a protest against his arrest in Belgrade (AP)

Supporters of Ratko Mladic wave Serbian flags at a protest against his arrest in Belgrade (AP)

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Ratko Mladic enters court in Belgrade (AP/RTS TV via APTN)

After 16 years on the run, a frail and haggard Ratko Mladic has been hauled before a judge in the first step towards charges for international war crimes, including the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

No longer the fearsome, bull-necked "Butcher of Bosnia", Mladic was arrested by intelligence agents on Thursday in a pre-dawn raid at a relative's house in a village in northern Serbia.

The act was trumpeted by the government as a victory for a country worthy of European Union membership and Western embrace.

Mladic, 69, one of the world's most-wanted fugitives, was the top commander of the Bosnian Serb army during Bosnia's 1992-95 war, which killed more than 100,000 people and drove another 1.8 million from their homes.

Thousands of Muslims and Croats were killed, tortured or driven out in a campaign to purge the region of non-Serbs.

He was accused by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for the massacre of Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces in eastern Bosnia and the relentless four-year siege of Sarajevo.

Mladic walked haltingly into a closed-door extradition hearing in Belgrade on Thursday night, where he asserted through his lawyer that he would not answer to the authority of the UN tribunal.

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The former military commander wore a navy blue jacket and a baseball hat and carried what appeared to be a towel in his left hand. He could be heard on state TV saying "good day" to someone in the court and a guard told him: "Let's go, general."

Mladic's lawyer, Milos Saljic, said the judge cut short the questioning because his client's "poor physical state" left him unable to communicate. "He is aware that he is under arrest, he knows where he is, and he said he does not recognise The Hague tribunal," Mr Saljic said, adding that Mladic needed medical care and "should not be moved in such a state".

Extradition proceedings could take a week or more before Mladic's expected transfer to The Hague, where he faces life imprisonment. Judge Fouad Riad of the UN tribunal said there was evidence against Mladic of "unimaginable savagery".


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