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Bosnian Serb genocide suspect Mladic refuses to enter plea

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Mladic removed from court
  • NEW: The hearing is adjourned until further notice
  • The court orders a combative Mladic removed from the hearing
  • The judge enters a not guilty plea on his behalf
  • The former Bosnian Serb commander was arrested after more than 15 years in hiding

The Hague, Netherlands (CNN) -- Bosnian Serb genocide suspect Ratko Mladic Monday refused to enter a plea at his war crimes trial, demanding new lawyers and speaking over the judge until he was removed from the court.

Mladic, who was captured earlier this year after more than 15 years in hiding, was a combative defendant, repeatedly interrupting the U.N. war crimes tribunal's judge.

"You're not allowing me to breathe," the former general said Monday before Judge Alphons Orie ordered him removed from the court and adjourned briefly.

Orie then entered not guilty pleas to all counts against Mladic and adjourned the hearing indefinitely.

Monday's appearance was Mladic's second at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Mladic captured after 16 years
'Mladic thought he was Serb protector'
  • Ratko Mladic
  • War Crimes
  • Serbia
  • The Hague

At his first appearance on June 3, Mladic dismissed as "obnoxious" charges against him.

"I would like to receive what you've read out just now, these obnoxious charges leveled against me," Mladic said, after the judge recited the charges against him. "I want to read this properly, to give it some proper thought together with my lawyers, because I need more than a month for these monstrous words, the ones that I've never heard before."

Mladic was the commander of Bosnian Serb forces during the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the bloodiest of the conflicts that accompanied Yugoslavia's breakup in the 1990s.

The 69-year-old is accused of leading a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against Bosnia's Muslim and Croat populations that included the shelling of Sarajevo and the torture, abuse and rape of civilians.

More than 200,000 Muslims and Croats died in the 1992-95 conflict, including nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered at Srebrenica in 1995. It was Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

His first court appearance at The Hague occurred days after he was arrested after more than 15 years in hiding.

During the appearance, he asked for more time to enter a plea, saying he needs more than the 30 days required so he can understand the charges. He was "gravely ill," he said, and had not yet read the documents relating to the charges.

Mladic was asked whether there was any issue relating to his arrest or detention, or any other issue that he wanted to raise.

Mladic -- who repeatedly said he stood up for his country -- said he didn't kill Croats.

"I do not fear any journalist or any people, any nation or ethnicity. I defended my country and people ... now I am defending myself," Mladic said.

"If you want the proceedings to proceed as they should ... I just have to say that I want to live to see that I am a free man. And such as I am, I am defending my country and my people and not Ratko Mladic."

Mladic was taken to The Hague after losing his fight against extradition from Serbia. He was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war.

An amended indictment against him was then filed to make sure charges "reflect the most recent developments in the tribunal's case law."

The suspect gave himself up without a fight May 26.

Officials located Mladic in a village north of the Serbian capital after culling information from his former comrades and close family members. It is unclear what source led investigators to the former military commander.

The arrest clears a major hurdle that once stood between Serbia and its long-awaited entrance into the European Union, but the move could also usher in a political backlash from the country's electorate, some of whom consider Mladic a hero.

Other key fugitive war criminal suspects previously captured are Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in jail in 2006 during his trial at The Hague.

CNN's Antonia Mortensen, Dan Rivers, Nic Robertson and Ivan Watson contributed to this report.