RATKO Mladic was forcibly removed from the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague yesterday after quarrelling with the judge and refusing to enter a plea.
In a defiant performance, the former Bosnian Serb army leader, known as the 'Butcher of Bosnia', refused to remove his hat, repeatedly interrupted proceedings and demanded the right to select his own lawyers.
After half an hour of heckling and disruption, Alphons Orie, the presiding judge, ordered security guards to escort Mladic from the courtroom. He continued to shout objections as he was removed.
Mladic had earlier threatened to boycott the hearing, his second court appearance since being arrested and extradited to Holland from Serbia in May. When he finally appeared, he spent several minutes demanding alternative legal representation and requesting a delay before having to plead.
When the judge began reading out the charges, Mladic (69) removed his translation headphones and shouted: "No, no, I'm not going to listen to this without my lawyer. You want to impose my defence, what kind of court are you? Who are you? You're not allowing me to breathe."
Mladic was represented by a court-appointed lawyer. When the hearing resumed after Mladic's ejection, the judge entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.
The charges include genocide and relate to the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.
Mr Orie said later the court would look into allowing Mladic to be represented by lawyers of his choice. Mladic's obstructive performance echoed the tactics adopted by other Yugoslav war leaders brought before UN tribunals.
Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Yugoslavia and Serbia, delayed his case until he died suddenly in 2006 at the age of 64 and before the tribunal had reached a verdict.
The trial of Radovan Karadzic opened in October 2009 but the former Bosnian Serb leader did not attend the first day and later filed several requests to delay his trial, saying he needed more time to study evidence. Proceedings are ongoing.
At his first appearance before the hearing in June, Mladic said he had been unable to read the thick file of legal documents given to him.
The charges relate to a campaign to seize territory for Serbians after Bosnia broke away from the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s. His trial could unearth evidence showing Belgrade knew about or helped commit genocide at Srebrenica if Mladic argues he was carrying out orders of political leaders.
One of the two lawyers Mladic wants to represent him, Milos Saljic, who is based in Belgrade, said the former general's behaviour in court yesterday showed he is not mentally fit to stand trial. "Let them now see for themselves his behaviour and let them decide accordingly," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)