Mladic lawyers say they are not ready for trial

AP News
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Posted: Jan 19, 2012 2:16 PM
Mladic lawyers say they are not ready for trial

Ratko Mladic's lawyer said Thursday the former Bosnian Serb military commander will not be ready to go to trial until October, months after the date in March judges penciled in to start the genocide case at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.

Presiding judge Alphons Orie said last month he aimed to open the landmark trial March 27, though he added that the date was "not set in stone."

Mladic's lawyer Branko Lukic told Orie at a pretrial hearing it would be almost impossible for defense lawyers to sift through hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence before the end of October as they build Mladic's defense.

Mladic faces 11 charges including two genocide counts for allegedly masterminding Bosnian Serb atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian war that left an estimated 100,000 dead.

The 69-year-old former military chief denies the charges.

He again told Orie that he is "a very sick man" due in part to a stroke he said he had in 2008.

"The right side of my body is not fully functioning," he said. During the hearing, Mladic repeatedly flexed his right arm and hand and grimaced at the hand.

Mladic said that his illness was "perhaps God's will" and added that he had carried "a heavy burden ... for a while." He did not elaborate.

Since his arrest last May, he has complained of pains from a kidney stone, has undergone surgery for a hernia and been hospitalized with pneumonia.

Mladic sat calmly throughout the hearing until Orie allowed him to air grievances at the end.

He then complained his rights were being trampled because he is handcuffed while being transported from his cell in the tribunal's detention unit to the courtroom and also that he is not allowed to wear a cap in court despite cold air blowing from a vent above his head.

Prosecutors allege that Bosnian Serb forces under his command committed atrocities including the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men in the eastern town of Srebrenica and the murderous campaign of shelling and sniping in the capital, Sarajevo.