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Karadzic refuses to enter plea over war crimes

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  • Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic refuses to enter plea
  • Judge forced to enter "not guilty" plea on his behalf
  • Charges against Karadzic include genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes
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(CNN) -- Former Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic refused to enter a plea Friday on war crimes and genocide charges, leading the judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to enter a plea of "not guilty" on his behalf.

Radovan Karadzic refused to enter a plea on war crimes and genocide charges.

It was only the second time that Karadzic had appeared in the court at The Hague, Netherlands, since his arrest in July. Karadzic, wearing a dark suit and brown patterned tie, his shock of white hair unruly, waived his right to legal counsel before the judge asked him to enter a plea on each of the 11 counts of the indictment against him.

After Karadzic refused to enter a plea on Count 1, Judge Ian Bonomy asked him whether he would do the same on each of the remaining 10 counts. Karadzic said: "Absolutely."

Bonomy then entered pleas of not guilty to each count, and not guilty to the indictment as a whole. Video Watch Karadzic refuse to enter a plea »

Then, in a friendly exchange, Karadzic asked the judge, "May I hold you to your word?"

"Which word?" Bonomy replied.

"That I am not guilty," Karadzic said, smiling.

"We shall see in due course, Mr. Karadzic," replied Bonomy, also smiling.

The judge said the court registry would set a date for the start of the trial "in due course." The trial is not expected to begin for at least several months.

The 11 counts against Karadzic, 63, include genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes stemming from the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, when he was president of a breakaway Serb republic.

The tribunal accuses Karadzic of leading a campaign that killed thousands of men, women and children -- mainly Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats who were killed by Serbs as part of a violent effort to rid the region of non-Serbs.

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Forces under Karadzic's command rounded up tens of thousands of non-Serbs and held them in camps where, the indictment says, Serbian forces tortured, mistreated, sexually assaulted and killed non-Serbs.

The indictment also charges Karadzic with responsibility for a protracted campaign of shelling and sniping of civilian areas of Sarajevo, killing and wounding thousands of civilians, including children and the elderly.

The Bosnian war was Europe's bloodiest conflict since World War II and the longest of the wars spawned by the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

Backed by the government of then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic », Bosnian Serb forces seized control of more than half the country and launched a campaign against the Muslim and Croat populations that introduced the term "ethnic cleansing" to the world.

Karadzic spent more than a decade on the run before Serbian authorities announced his arrest July 21. It later emerged he had worked at a clinic in Belgrade as an alternative medicine therapist, using an elaborate disguise of a long white beard, white mustache, and long white hair. Video Watch Karadzic's first court appearance »

The tribunal does not impose the death penalty. Karadzic may face a sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.

Karadzic, who has now been in detention at The Hague for four weeks, complained Friday that the court was simply being used by NATO to get rid of him.

"I am deeply convinced that this court is representing itself falsely as a court of the international community, whereas it is in fact a court of NATO, whose aim is to liquidate me," Karadzic said. "I have stopped using a false name, so I think all parties should do the same."

Bonomy did not respond to Karadzic's allegation.

The current indictment against Karadzic was filed in May 2000. Prosecutors had been expected to file an amended version for Friday's session, but prosecutor Alan Tieger told the judge it would not be ready for another month.

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Bonomy said the delay was "surprising" given that prosecutors have had more than eight years in which to update the document.

"I sincerely hope that you're not serious about that date," Bonomy told Tieger.

All About Radovan KaradzicBosnia and HerzegovinaSerbia

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