By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic slammed the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal Thursday as a puppet of NATO, calling it "biased" against him and other Serbs.
Mladic also held up photographs of his family, before a guard grabbed them after the 69-year-old former general was told by Presiding Judge Alphons Orie to stop waving them at the public gallery.
Mladic, brandishing a photo of himself in his old Bosnian Serb army uniform, said he was "proud of that army and uniform," and that his wife should be allowed to bring it to him — presumably to wear in court.
Mladic is accused of masterminding Serb atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian war that left an estimated 100,000 people dead. Most of the killings are blamed on Serb soldiers and paramilitaries under his command.
He denies 11 charges, including two counts of genocide. His trial is scheduled to start May 14.
The tribunal was set up by the United Nations Security Council, but Mladic and his former political master Radovan Karadzic have often portrayed it as an extension of NATO and accused the military alliance of unfairly targeting Serbs.
"You are trying me on behalf of NATO, you are trying me and my people," he told Orie. "You are a biased NATO court."
Such arguments carry no weight with judges and are more likely aimed at audiences who still follow the legal proceedings back in Serbia and Bosnia.
Alluding to his failing health, Mladic told Orie he was "an old man ... nearing my end" and said he was not "trying to put on a circus," before launching into a disjointed rant.
Mladic has suffered at least one stroke during his 16 years as a fugitive. His speech is slurred, and his right hand and arm both appear to have been weakened — Mladic repeatedly flexed the arm during the 90-minute hearing, as if performing exercises.
Mladic also accused NATO of "striking against poor people in Africa and Asia" and said the alliance "has reared its head and when they strike Iran it will be the end."
Orie finally cut him short by turning off Mladic's microphone and adjourning the hearing with Mladic still standing and gesturing at his attorney.