THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Radovan Karadzic has threatened to boycott his genocide trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, saying in a letter released Thursday he needs more time to prepare.
The former Bosnian Serb leader said in the letter to judges at the U.N. court he should have been given two years to get ready for the "gigantic" case.
"The biggest, most complex, important and sensitive case ever before this tribunal is about to begin without proper preparation," he wrote.
Karadzic is scheduled to go on trial Monday on 11 counts of genocide and war crimes for masterminding Serb atrocities during the 1992-95 Bosnian war when an estimated 100,000 people were killed.
He is accused of orchestrating crimes including the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in the U.N.-protected Srebrenica enclave and the deadly campaign of shelling and sniping during the siege of Sarajevo. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.
In his six-page letter, Karadzic tells judges assigned to his trial he is not ready and "therefore I shall not appear before you on that date."
Karadzic is defending himself. If he refuses to attend his trial judges may appoint a defense lawyer — something Karadzic is unlikely to accept.
Prosecution spokeswoman Olga Kavran declined to speculate on what might happen next.
"It is up to the judges to determine what to do," Kavran said. "The prosecution is ready for the trial."
Nerma Jelacic, a spokeswoman for the court's registry, said in a statement that "at the moment there is no indication that the procedure will not go ahead as scheduled."
Jelacic said it is possible for the trial to go ahead Monday even if Karadzic remains in his cell at the court's detention unit in a seaside neighborhood of The Hague. Prosecutors are scheduled to make opening statements for the first two days of the case.
The 64-year-old was arrested in July last year on a Belgrade bus while disguised as a New Age healer.
He has repeatedly requested more time to prepare, accusing prosecutors of burying him under an avalanche of documents and other evidence.
However, judges say he has had enough time, and the court's appeals chamber agreed earlier this month, clearing the way for his trial to start.
Prosecutors say they will take about a year to present their case and Karadzic has been given the same amount of time to mount his defense.
Karadzic would not be the first former leader to boycott the start of his war crimes trial. In June 2007, former Liberian President Charles Taylor stayed in his cell and fired his attorneys on the opening day of his trial on charges of allegedly orchestrating atrocities in neighboring Sierra Leone.
Taylor's trial was held up for months before resuming with Taylor present and a new lawyer leading his defense.