Mladic seeks judge's disqualification, trial delay

Ratko Mladic appealed to the president of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal Friday to disqualify the presiding judge in his trial, accusing him of bias, and to postpone the trial scheduled to start next week.

Mladic's lawyers argued in a written motion that judge Alophons Orie is biased because he has sat in several other cases in which former subordinates of the ex-Bosnian Serb military chief have been convicted and accused him of favoring prosecutors in preparations for the trial.

Orie was removed from the case of Mladic's former political master Radovan Karadzic in 2008 after Karadzic made a similar complaint, although the tribunal called his removal an administrative change and did not directly rule on Karadzic's complaint.

Mladic's lawyers also claimed that Orie's Dutch nationality makes him biased in charges linked to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Dutch U.N. peacekeepers have been accused of not doing enough to prevent the slaying by Serb forces of 8,000 Muslim men.

Defense lawyers say the alleged bias is so serious "that disqualification of Judge Orie is the only way of preserving the integrity of the proceedings."

Mladic has repeatedly tried to stall the start of his trial, which is set to begin Wednesday. He faces 11 charges, including two counts of genocide, for allegedly commanding Serb forces responsible for atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Mladic was arrested last year near Belgrade after more than a decade as a fugitive. He has refused to enter pleas, but denies wrongdoing. Judges have entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.

Orie in the past presided over the trial of Gen. Stanislav Galic, who was convicted of leading Serb troops who laid siege to the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and unleashed a deadly hail of sniper bullets and artillery and mortar shells on the city.

Mladic's lawyers argued that Orie's involvement in that conviction means he would have "a strong personal interest to have his previous findings in the Galic proceedings remain intact." They also highlighted several other cases involving the conviction of prominent Serbs in which Orie sat as a judge.

They also said that, before becoming a tribunal judge, Orie acted as a defense lawyer for a Serb suspect who became the first person convicted by the UN court, Dusko Tadic.

"There is an apparent and actual conflict of interest in Judge Orie sitting to hear the Mladic proceedings which are based in part on the same allegations of crimes for which his former client, Mr. Tadic was convicted," the motion said.

There was no immediate reaction from the court to Friday's filing.