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Hague prosecutors demand life sentence for Bosnian Serb general Mladic

By Thomas Escritt

By Thomas Escritt

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Prosecutors told a U.N. tribunal on Wednesday that Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general charged over the murder of thousands of Muslims in the town of Srebrenica in 1995 must be sentenced to life in jail.

Mladic, 74, is charged with two counts of genocide - part of the attempt to carve an ethnically pure Serb state out of multiethnic Bosnia - alongside political leader Radovan Karadzic, who was sentenced in March to 40 years' prison.

"It would be an insult to victims living and dead and an afront to justice to impose any sentence less than the severest available under the law - a life sentence", said Alan Tieger, lead prosecutor on the tribunal's last major case.

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Summing up at the end of the four-year trial, prosecutors said Mladic had given the order to kill thousands of Muslims in the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995 after systematically starving them over the previous winter.

"The time has come to take revenge on the Turks of this region," Mladic said on a television broadcast, played in court, on the eve of the fall of the enclave, where thousands of Muslim Bosniaks had fled believing it to be a safe haven.

Mladic, wearing a crumpled grey suit, read a newspaper for much of the hearing, occasionally nodding or shaking his head in response to prosecutors' words.

The massacre, Europe's worst since World War Two, triggered NATO air strikes that ended the three-year Bosnian war, part of a wider Balkan conflict that saw Yugoslavia broken into seven states in a series of wars that killed 130,000 people and lasted for most of the 1990s.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia cited Mladic's orders to cut off power and water to Muslim parts of Bosnia's capital Sarajevo, besieged by his Serb Republic forces for more than three years.

Prosecutor Peter McCloskey dwelt on the pain felt by victims and surviving loved ones, unable to say final goodbyes after wives, husbands, parents and children were torn from each other in Srebrenica.

"I looked and looked for someone who was able to put something down on a scrap of paper. But of course they were not able even to hold a pencil," he said, referring to the dead.

He read as a substitute American Civil War soldier Sullivan Balou's letter of farewell to his wife Sarah, written a week before his death in 1863.

Mladic's lawyers will respond later this week. Judges are expected to hand down a verdict and sentence next year.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

 
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