, THE HAGUE, October 2- Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic “did not know” of the 1995 massacre of thousands of Muslims at Srebrenica, his lawyer said Thursday, seeking an acquittal in his genocide trial.
“There is not a single piece of evidence that Dr Karadzic planned or ordered the execution of prisoners (at Srebrenica), or that he knew about it,” his legal advisor Peter Robinson told the Hague based UN Yugoslav war crimes court.
“In fact they (events) were concealed from him and therefore he is not guilty of genocide,” Robinson said in the second and final day of closing arguments before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Once one of Europe’s most wanted men, Karadzic, 69, denies charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1990s Balkan conflict.
Karadzic is accused of being one of the masterminds of ethnic cleansing during Bosnia’s brutal civil war that claimed more than 100,000 lives and uprooted 2.2 million others.
The president of the former self proclaimed Bosnian Serb republic faces a total of 11 charges, most notably that of genocide for his alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre.
Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and their bodies dumped in mass graves after Bosnian Serb forces overran the UN protected enclave in eastern Bosnia in July 1995.
The slaughter is deemed one of the bloodiest crimes committed on European soil since World War II.
A final verdict in the marathon five year trial is not expected before late 2015.
– ‘An innocent man’ –
“If Dr Karadzic was truly guilty of the Srebrenica killings you would have heard something more than what the prosecution has presented in five years of trial,” Robinson told a four-judge bench.
“Not a single witness has testified that Radovan Karadzic planned, ordered, was even informed of the execution of prisoners from Srebrenica,” he said.
“If you agree to the legal lynching as done by the prosecution, you will be convicting an innocent man.”
Earlier on Thursday, Robinson asked that judges also drop another genocide charge against Karadzic relating to crimes committed in Bosnia’s municipalities in 1992.
Dressed in a crumpled charcoal suit, white shirt and maroon tie and sporting his trademark carefully coiffed silver hairdo, Karadzic listened intently as Robinson spoke.
– Moral responsibility –
On Wednesday, he told judges he was a “true friend” to Bosnia’s Muslims.
Although he has taken “moral responsibility” for the atrocities committed by Bosnian Serbs during the war, Karadzic denies the criminal charges.
In his final trial brief filed this week, he also asked judges to look at mitigating factors should he be sentenced, including personal circumstances and his lack of prior convictions.
Despite still claiming his innocence, Karadzic also apologised to victims of the crimes, accepting responsibility as the serving president at the time.
Prosecutors wrapped up their arguments on Tuesday saying life behind bars “would be the only appropriate sentence”.
They said Karadzic, along with late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, acted together to “cleanse” Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats from Serb-claimed territories after the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991.
Karadzic is also facing charges over the 44 month long siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, which ended in November 1995 with some 10,000 people killed.
He had 10 hours to address judges on Wednesday and Thursday in what Robinson described as a “milestone” in his client’s case.
Milosevic died midway through his own trial in March 2006 and his military alter ego Mladic went on trial in May 2012.
Karadzic was arrested on a Belgrade bus in July 2008 disguised as a faith healer. His trial opened in October the following year.