Karadzic trial to begin despite defendant's refusal to appear
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The long-anticipated trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic will begin on Monday despite Karadzic’s announcement that he will not be present at court, saying he needs more time to prepare his defence.
AFP - Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic won't be the first accused to boycott the opening of an international war crimes trial, though few had announced their absence in advance.
Karadzic, 64, informed the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) last Wednesday that he would not be present for Monday's start of his trial, in which he will conduct his own defence -- claiming he had been denied adequate time to prepare.
The rules of the tribunal, which preclude a suspect being tried in absentia, do not specify the procedure to be followed if an accused in its detention refuses to appear.
This leaves it up to the judges to decide whether to continue in Karadzic's absence, have him brought to court by force, impose a defence lawyer on him or to give in to his demand for more time.
In a famous precedent, ultra-nationalist Serb leader Vojislav Seselj delayed his own trial before the ICTY by a year, protesting the judges' appointment of a backup defence lawyer for him.
He refused to leave his jail cell for the trial opening in November 2006, having been on a hunger strike for more than two weeks to insist on the right to conduct his own defence.
Seselj's trial, which finally opened in November 2007 with him present in court, is still underway.
Former Serb intelligence chief Jovica Stanisic had also boycotted the start of his ICTY trial in March 2008, claiming he was too ill to attend. The case got underway in June this year after repeated postponements.
Tried in The Hague by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, former Liberian president Charles Taylor refused to attend the scheduled start of his trial in June 2007, citing differences with his lawyer.
A new lawyer was appointed and the trial got underway in earnest in January 2008.
At least three accused had boycotted their trials before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania.
Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, one of the alleged founders of an extremist Hutu radio station, refused to attend his genocide trial which continued in his absence. He was sentenced to 35 years in jail in December 2003.
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