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UN court aims to start Mladic trial March 27

December 8, 2011
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THE HAGUE, Netherlands—The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal is aiming to start Gen. Ratko Mladic's genocide trial March 27, but Mladic and his lawyer say they will not be ready.

Presiding judge Alphons Orie said Thursday he aims to hold a pretrial conference March 26, with prosecution opening statements the following day.

Mladic's attorney, Branko Lukic, said he would not be ready by the proposed date -- "Our team is absolutely not prepared to proceed with the trial, not even close to those deadlines," he said.

Orie -- speaking at a status conference for the former Bosnian Serb military chief -- said the date, however, was not "written in stone."

Mladic, whose ailing health is being carefully monitored by the U.N. court, told Orie he was in no hurry to start his trial. "For me, time is of no consequence," he said. The trial is expected to last years.

The former military chief, 69, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges linked to a new allegation filed recently by prosecutors -- that Bosnian Serb troops executed more than 30 Muslim prisoners in the eastern town of Bisina in July 1995.

He had previously refused to enter pleas to any of the charges against him. Judges had entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.

Mladic was arrested in May after 16 years on the run as one of Europe's most-wanted fugitives. Prosecutors allege that he orchestrated atrocities committed by Bosnian Serb forces under his command throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian War, during which 100,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were left homeless.

Since his arrest, he has complained of pains from a kidney stone, has undergone surgery for a hernia and been hospitalized with pneumonia. His lawyers and family also say he had two strokes during his years as a fugitive.

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