US may be seeking to kill me, says Karadzic

THE HAGUE (Agencies) - Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, known as "Butcher of Bosnia" made a combative first appearance at the UN war crimes court Thursday, claiming "irregularities" in his capture and waiving legal counsel. After hearing Judge Alphons Orie read out the 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity on his indictment, Karadzic opted to delay entering a plea for up to 30 days. He claimed that the former United States secretary of state Richard Holbrooke had granted him immunity from war crimes on the condition of his withdrawal from public life as part of a wider Bosnia peace deal agreed in 1995. But he then went on to accuse Holbrooke of trying to kill him as part of a conspiracy to silence any revelations he might make during the trial. "It is a matter of life and death. Holbrooke wants my death and regrets there is no death sentence here. I wonder if his arm is long enough to reach here." Shorn of the beard and long hair he had used as a disguise until his capture on July 21, the 63-year-old was again recognisable as the man who became one of the most reviled figures in the Bosnian conflict of the 1990s, though older, thinner and paler. Wearing a dark blue jacket and tie, Karadzic sat gravely in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), swiftly waiving his right to a defence lawyer. "I intend to represent myself ... "as I would defend myself against any natural catastrophe," he told Orie. Karadzic claimed he had been "kidnapped" prior to the official date given for his arrest, July 21. "I was arrested irregularly. For three days I was kidnapped ... I was kept in a place ... my rights were not (read out to) me, I had no right to a telephone." Karadzic said there were "numerous irregularities" in his capture and transfer. Serbian government sources told AFP the cabinet would not react to the claims. He said at the United Nations war crimes court that he is gravely concerned about his life because the United States might be seeking to "liquidate" him. He told the judge that he had a deal with the US before withdrawing from the public life in 1996. Karadzic also claimed to have made a deal with US negotiator Richard Holbrooke at the end of the 1992-95 Bosnian war that involved him withdrawing from public life, and has since put his life at risk. It was agreed that he would lie low, said Karadzic, "in return the United States of America would fulfil their commitments". But he did not specify what these were. Claiming "I was in danger of being liquidated because I had made a commitment", Karadzic said he was merely trying to explain why he was brought before the tribunal now rather than much earlier. But as he sought to list his grievances in detail, he was stopped short by Orie who said this was not the time or place to raise these issues. Though clearly frustrated, Karadzic maintained his composure throughout the hearing, never raising his voice and only speaking when asked. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.

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