THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Radovan Karadzic asked a United Nations judge Wednesday to release him pending his appeal against what the former Bosnian Serb leader called his "monstrous" conviction for genocide and other atrocities.
In his first courtroom appearance since judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment for the crimes during Bosnia's 1992-95 war, 70-year-old Karadzic also complained about his conditions of detention and asked for a new laptop to help him prepare his case.
Karadzic's American lawyer, Peter Robinson, told Judge Theodor Meron that Karadzic has been distressed since his March 24 conviction, saying the former leader has been "like a tiger in a cage."
Karadzic himself said he was astonished by his conviction, telling Meron that he had packed his belongings before the judgment, apparently because he was so confident he would be acquitted and set free.
Instead, "We now have the judgment, which is monstrous," Karadzic said, adding it "would not be endorsed even by a first year student of law."
In the 25-minute hearing, Karadzic aired a long list of complaints about his life behind bars at the UN detention center where he has been held since he was captured on a Serbian bus nearly eight years ago and warned of a high rate of what he called "malignancy" among detainees. At least two people held at the detention unit have been diagnosed with cancer in recent years.
"My proposal is that my stay in the detention unit should be suspended," Karadzic said. He said he should be released pending the outcome of the appeal against his conviction.
Meron said he would look into the request for a new laptop and told Karadzic to put his appeal for release in a written motion. He also said he would ask court officials to look into the issue of health problems at the detention unit.
But Meron stressed that the cell block "is generally regarded as being the gold standard of prisons."
In a separate case, prosecutor Serge Brammertz said he would appeal last week's acquittal of Serbian ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj.
By a two-to-one majority, Seselj was cleared of recruiting and financing Serb paramilitaries blamed for atrocities in Croatia and Bosnia in the early 1990s and using hate-laced speeches to incite them. The third judge issued a stinging dissenting opinion.
"Given the far reaching nature of the errors we have identified in the majority judgment, we underscore for the victims of the crimes that the forthcoming appeal is of utmost priority," Brammertz said in a statement.
The Seselj ruling sparked joy in Serbia but horror and outrage in Bosnia and Croatia.
In her dissenting opinion, Judge Flavia Lattanzi said the other two judges had set aside "all the rules of international humanitarian law that existed before the creation of the Tribunal and all the applicable law established since the inception of the Tribunal in order to acquit Vojislav Seselj."