Radovan Karadzic seeks freedom pending appeal of genocide conviction

Radovan Karadzic asked a United Nations judge Wednesday to release him pending his appeal against what the former Bosnian Serb leader called his "monstrous" conviction for genocide and other atrocities.

Bosnian Serb wartime leader calls conviction 'monstrous,' complains about the conditions of his detention

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic has asked to be released pending his appeal of his war crimes convictions. (Michael Kooren/Reuters )

Radovan Karadzic asked a United Nations judge Wednesday to release him pending his appeal against what the former Bosnian Serb leader called his "monstrous" conviction for genocide and other atrocities.

In his first courtroom appearance since judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment for the crimes during Bosnia's 1992-95 war, 70-year-old Karadzic also complained about his conditions of detention and asked for a new laptop to help him prepare his case.

Karadzic's American lawyer, Peter Robinson, told Judge Theodor Meron that Karadzic has been distressed since his March 24 conviction, saying the former leader has been "like a caged tiger."

Karadzic himself said he was astonished by his conviction, telling Meron that he had packed his belongings before the judgment, apparently because he was so confident he would be acquitted and set free.

Instead, "We now have the judgment, which is monstrous," Karadzic said, adding it "would not be endorsed even by a first-year student of law."

Complains of prison conditions 

In the 25-minute hearing, Karadzic aired a long list of complaints about his life behind bars at the UN detention centre where he has been held since he was captured on a Serbian bus nearly eight years ago and warned of a high rate of what he called "malignancy" among detainees. At least two people held at the detention unit have been diagnosed with cancer in recent years.

"My proposal is that my stay in the detention unit should be suspended," Karadzic said. He said he should be released pending the outcome of the appeal against his conviction.

Meron said he would look into the request for a new laptop and told Karadzic to put his appeal for release in a written motion. He also said he would ask court officials to look into the issue of health problems at the detention unit.

But Meron stressed that the cell block "is generally regarded as being the gold standard of prisons."

Posed as new age healer

Karadzic was sentenced earlier this month to 40 years in prison for his role in Serb atrocities that included the Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in Europe's worst mass murder since the Holocaust, and for directing the nearly four-year siege of Sarajevo. 
An undated recent file photo shows Bosnian Serb wartime leader and indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic in Belgrade, where he was posing as a faith healer. (Reuters)

In pronouncing the verdict, presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon said Karadzic and his military commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic, intended "that every able-bodied Bosnian Muslim male from Srebrenica be killed."

The former leader, who was arrested in Serbia in 2008 after 13 years in hiding, is the highest Bosnian Serb official to be sentenced by the Netherlands-based court. 

At the time of his arrest, he had been living in Belgrade, posing as a new-age faith healer, complete with a bushy beard and top-not, reports the Telegraph

"Nobody was interested in his alternative medicine, but he seemed like a nice guy," Thomas Kovijanic, a patron of a bar Karadzic frequented at the time, told the newspaper. "Once we sang a modern folk song about how Karadzic has been hiding in the hills, and asking him to come back to his people. He said nothing, he just sat there looking happy."

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