BOZINOVICI, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — As former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic — the notorious "Butcher of Bosnia" — awaits a verdict on genocide charges in the custody of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, back home in the Balkans he is still revered as a hero by many Serbs.
The U.N. court in The Hague, Netherlands, is set to hand down the verdict in Mladic's trial on Wednesday. He is accused of overseeing the worst atrocities of Bosnia's 1992-95 war, including the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 and the siege of the capital, Sarajevo.
The ruling is seen as a milestone in bringing justice for the victims of those crimes. But many Serbs both in Bosnia and Serbia believe Mladic is innocent and his trial is unjust.
Mladic's home village of Bozinovici, for example, has a street named after the former general and cherishes pictures of him, both from the days when he was a young soldier and from later when he commanded the Bosnian Serb army during the war.
The villagers in Bozinovici are proud to be from the same village as Mladic. Many of them have Mladic's portraits in their homes and gladly pose for photos beside the pictures. They say Mladic is a saint rather than a villain.
In other Bosnian Serb towns, T-shirts featuring Mladic are sold in the streets. Huge Mladic murals are drawn on the walls of the buildings in the Bosnian Serb mini-state and in neighboring Serbia.
There, Mladic is a symbol of defiance and national pride. A nationalist poster says: "General, thank you for Srebrenica!"
On the other side of the ethnic divide, in Sarajevo, a huge piece of graffiti warns: "Do not forget Srebrenica!"