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Karadzic Denies Atrocities At War Crimes Trial
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has told a UN war crimes court he should have been rewarded for trying to stop the conflict in Yugoslavia rather than put on trial.
On the first day of his defence in The Hague, Karadzic said: "Instead of being accused for the events in our civil war I should have been rewarded for all the good things I have done.
"Namely, that I did everything in my human power to avoid the war, that I succeeded in reducing the suffering of all civilians, that the number of victims in our war was three to four times less than the numbers reported in public.
"I proclaimed numerous unilateral ceasefires and military containments and I stopped our army many times when they were close to victory."
Brought to court after his arrest on a Belgrade bus in 2008, the 67-year-old, is charged with masterminding the murder of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys by forces loyal to him in the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995.
The massacre, when Bosnian Serb troops under the command of wartime general Ratko Mladic overran Dutch UN peacekeepers, was the worst atrocity committed on European soil since World War Two.
Over the space of a few days, thousands were systematically executed and dumped into mass graves in the area.
Relatives of the Srebrenica victims watching proceedings on Bosnian TV reacted angrily to his speech.
Kada Hotic of the Mothers of Srebrenica association said: "He is trying to fool the world.
"He really reduced human suffering, he reduced the suffering of thousands of people by putting them in the ground. He ethnically cleansed many places."
Prosecutors say Karadzic, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and Mladic acted together to "cleanse" Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Bosnia's Serb-claimed territories after the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991.
Milosevic died midway through his own trial for genocide and war crimes in March 2006.
But Karadzic told the court that he never considered the possibility that there could be mass atrocities aimed at either displacing or wiping out the Bosnian Muslim and Croat populations.
"Neither I nor anyone I know could ever think there could be a genocide against any people we consider to be the same as us - Serbs, although of a different confession," he said.
Karadzic is also charged over his alleged role in the siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo between May 1992 and November 1995 in which 10,000 people died under terrifying sniper and artillery fire.
But he accused Muslims of faking the circumstances of two shellings of a marketplace in the Bosnian capital, in which more than 100 people were killed.
"Sarajevo is my city, and any story that we would shell Sarajevo without any reason is untrue," he said.
Wives and relatives of victims were looking on from the public gallery as he addressed the court.
Like Mladic, Karadzic has also been charged for his alleged role in taking hostage UN observers and peacekeepers to use them as human shields during a Nato bombing campaign against Bosnian Serb targets in May and June 1995.
Karadzic, who represented the Bosnian Serbs at talks aimed at ending the civil war, told the court "many incidents happened while I was abroad attending negotiations or meetings".
After being indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 1995, he spent 13 years on the run before being arrested in 2008 in Belgrade where he practised as a doctor of alternative medicine.
In his opening statement, he described himself as a "physician, a psychiatrist, a psychotherapist, group analyst and a literary man" as he began to read his statement to the court.
His trial began in October 2009 and prosecutors put their case against him between April 2010 and May this year.
Judges dropped one genocide count in June, saying there was not enough evidence to substantiate the charge for killings by Bosnian Serb forces in Bosnian towns from March to December 1992.
Genocide, the gravest crime in international humanitarian law, is the hardest to prove.
Karadzic, who has been allocated 300 hours for his defence, has said he will call 300 witnesses to testify on his behalf.
The names include Greek President Carolos Papoulias, who was Athens' foreign minister during the Bosnian war.
Karadzic has said Mr Papoulias' testimony could prove his innocence for the infamous shelling of Sarajevo's Markale market on February 5, 1994, in which 67 people died.
Meanwhile, the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal began the trial of its last suspect in a separate courtroom.
Goran Hadzic, president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina, is accused of the murder, torture and forcible deportation of ethnic Croats from 1992 to 1994.