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Dec 7, 9:38 AM EST

UN prosecutors demand life sentence for Gen. Ratko Mladic



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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- U.N. prosecutors on Wednesday demanded a life sentence for Gen. Ratko Mladic, telling judges that they should convict and imprison the former Bosnian Serb military chief for orchestrating atrocities throughout Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

Prosecutor Alan Tieger told judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that it would be "an insult to the victims, living and dead, and an affront to justice to impose any sentence other than the most severe available under law: A life sentence."

Tieger was speaking at the end of prosecutors' closing statements at the conclusion of Mladic's trial on charges including genocide, murder and terror.

Mladic's defense attorneys will deliver their closing statements before the three-judge panel retires to consider verdicts, which are expected late next year.

Mladic faces 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide linked to his command of troops accused of atrocities including indiscriminately shelling and sniping in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and murdering thousands of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995, Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

The 74-year-old Mladic insists he is innocent and often appeared unmoved by the prosecution's final statement. He spent part of the morning in court Wednesday leafing through two newspapers, sometimes looking up at a computer screen when prosecutors displayed images of Bosnian Serb army orders. As Tieger delivered his sentence demand, Mladic stared at him across the courtroom.

On the final day of prosecutors' closing statement, lawyer Adam Weber told judges that Mladic played a key role in the deadly siege of Sarajevo during the war, saying it was the general's "personal approval that was necessary" for Serb forces to shell the city using specially modified munitions.

Another prosecutor, Peter McCloskey, went on to outline Mladic's role in the Srebrenica slayings, saying that "we see Mladic commanding his forces in an organized and systematic capture, detention, transportation, execution and burial of over 7,000 able-bodied men and boys of Srebrenica."

Mladic's trial, which started more than four years ago, is the last case still underway at the tribunal, which convicted and sentenced 83 suspects. Among them was Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader who was sentenced to 40 years in March for genocide and other crimes.

Tieger reminded judges that four of Mladic's subordinate officers have been convicted by the tribunal and sentenced to life for their role in the Srebrenica genocide.

Mladic insists he did nothing wrong during the war that left 100,000 dead, claiming that his military campaigns were intended to protect the Serb people as Bosnia disintegrated following the breakup of Yugoslavia and that he did not have a hand in some of the worst atrocities.

But in an emotional finale to his closing statement, Tieger said there was no doubt Mladic was guilty and focused in on the victims.

"No-one can fathom the extent of the individual tragedies of the victims in this case," he said, referring to slain children, beaten prisoners and women who were raped.

"The litany of tragedies goes on and on," Tieger said. "No-one can fathom the extent of the suffering for which Ratko Mladic is responsible."

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