Appearing for the first time in his genocide trial in The Hague, wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (photo) has asked the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal for further delays in the proceedings.
Karadzic arrived at the court on Tuesday following a boycott of the trial, which opened more than a week ago.
He warned that he would continue the boycott unless he is given time — as long as 10 months — to prepare his defense, which he is undertaking personally, and to review more than a million pages of evidence.
Tuesday's procedural hearing aimed at reviewing options for continuing the trial in the face of Karadzic's continued defiance.
The court adjourned after hearing his arguments with the promise of reaching a decision within a week.
"The trial chamber... will issue its decision on this matter in writing later this week," residing judge O-Gon Kwon said at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
He is facing 11 charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity over his alleged role in overseeing Serb atrocities in the 1992-95 Bosnian war that claimed some 100,000 lives.
The former Serb leader, who was indicted in 1995 but avoided capture until 14 months ago, told the judges that he 'would really be a criminal' if he accepted to stand trial without being adequately prepared.
Karadzic has refused to leave his jail cell since the trial started on October 26, saying he needed more time to review more than a million pages of prosecution evidence and the statements of hundreds of witnesses.
"Mr Karadzic cannot be permitted to manipulate the proceedings through his decision not to attend," said prosecutor Hildegard Uertz-Retzlaff.
Should the court decide to proceed despite his absence and assign counsel to represent him, the new lawyer may ask for months of delay for acquainting himself with the case. Karadzic, however, has promised to fight such an appointment.
If convicted, Karadzic could be handed a life jail sentence.
On Monday, prosecutor Alan Tieger dubbed the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys 'one of humanity's dark chapters', accusing Karadzic of sanctioning the atrocity.
He also stands charged for the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, which ended in November 1995 after some 10,000 people, many of them civilians, were killed.