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Bosnian-Serb Momcilo Krajisnik Answers Charges Before War Crimes Tribunal

Aired April 7, 2000 - 2:38 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: In The Hague, a Bosnian-Serb with close ties to the wartime leadership answered charges of crimes against humanity today. Momcilo Krajisnik was arrested last Monday by French commandos in the Bosnian-Serb stronghold of Pale.

CNN's Nic Robertson has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By far, the most important alleged war criminal to be brought to justice so far, Momcilo Krajisink listened impassively as the judge read out his charges.

RICHARD MAY, TRIBUNAL JUDGE: The accused is charged, in an indictment containing nine counts, alleging genocide, crimes against humanity and breeches of the Geneva Convention.

ROBERTSON: By pleading not guilty to each of the nine counts, he rebutted the tribunal's accusation that he is responsible for the murder, persecution and deportation of thousands of Bosnia's Muslims and Croats during the first year of the Bosnian War.

MAY: Charges murder, a crime against humanity, punishable...

ROBERTSON: As president of the Bosnian Serb Assembly and second only to wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, prosecutors accuse Krajisnik of controlling the Bosnian Serb military and police. His defense claim he had no role in war crimes and accuse prosecutors of being politically motivated.

IGOR PONTELIC, DEFENSE LAWYER: Acting only in the capacity of president of Bosnian Serb parliament, so my conclusion would be that, unfortunately, in the work of the prosecutor's office, there is so much political influence.

ROBERTSON (on camera): Krajisnik's arrest by NATO peacekeepers in Bosnia came just weeks after his indictment and points not only to a growing cooperation between the international criminal tribunal and NATO, but also to the tribunal's policy now of targeting those they hold most responsible.

(voice-over): Krajisnik's arrest also holds out the possibility that Radovan Karadzic may soon be arrested.

CARLA DEL PONTE, CHIEF PROSECUTOR: I hope that it will be possible to arrest now also Karadzic, because -- so we can have only one trial with both.

ROBERTSON: With or without Karadzic, however, Krajisnik now begins months, possibly years of legal battles before his future is settled.

Nic Robertson, CNN, The Hague.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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