- Title: Mladic was defending his country against Muslim extremists, defence says
- Date: 9th December 2016
- Summary: THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS (DECEMBER 9, 2016) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA ENTRANCE TO THE TRIBUNAL
- Embargoed: 24th December 2016 12:05
- Keywords: Ratko Mladic former Yugoslavia Srebrenica Bosnia Serbia Muslims genocide
- Location: THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS
- City: THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS
- Country: Netherlands
- Reuters ID: LVA0015C5X6IV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3
Ratko Mladic's lawyers told judges on Friday (December 9) that the Bosnian Serb general stood up against Muslim extremists backed by NATO forces.
Mladic, 74, once an officer in the federal Yugoslav army, led Bosnian Serb forces in a three-year campaign to carve an ethnically pure Serb state out of Bosnia. The campaign reached its nadir with the slaughter of thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica.
Summing up at the end of Mladic's four-year trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, defence lawyer Branko Lukic said Mladic had been defending his country and its people from "ethnic and religious fanaticism."
"If that is the appropriate standard of proof, that is to say, if being a Serb and a member of the GNA (Yugoslavian Army) and later VRS (Bosnian Serb Army), defending his country and its people against an armed enemy that used ethnic and religious fanatism (sic) to try and take power, then general Mladic is guilty, and guilty alongside general Mladic is every single military officer that has ever served in any country's army in the entire world," defence lawyer Branko Lukic said.
Prosecutors on Wednesday (December 7) demanded life imprisonment for Mladic for leading Bosnian Serb forces as they encircled the U.N.-designated safe haven of Srebrenica and then murdered some 8,000 of its male Muslim inhabitants, burying them in mass graves.
But Lukic told the court that all parties, not only the Bosnian Serbs, were responsible for the violence in Bosnia -- not least Arab "mujahideen" fighters who had come to fight alongside their Bosnian co-religionists.
Lukic said the Bosnian Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) was preparing for war, quoting an "Islamic declaration" by Bosnia's wartime leader, Alija Izetbegovic, which stated that "there can be no peace between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions".
"To believe the prosecution's vision of the case, one has to ignore the presence and activities of an opposing armed opponent, consisting of multiple paramilitary organisations and armies. That is why Ratko Mladic is here today: because he is a Serb and dared stand up against Alija Izetbegovic's jihad which was covertly backed by the forces of NATO," Lukic said, as Mladic, described by another defence lawyer as a popular "soldier's soldier", listened from the dock.
Mladic is charged with two counts of genocide in connection with the war. His old ally, the Bosnian Serbs' political leader Radovan Karadzic, was convicted of a single count of genocide this year and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
A verdict and, in the event of a conviction, a sentence are expected next year.
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