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Ratko Mladic sentenced to life in prison for genocide in Bosnia

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Former Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic has been sentenced to life in prison for genocide and war crimes during the Balkans conflicts more than two decades ago.

The presiding judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Wednesday found that the 74-year-old general “significantly contributed” to genocide committed at Srebrenica. Previous judgments of the tribunal in the Netherlands already ruled that the massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica was genocide.Judge Alphons Orie ruled that the perpetrators of the crimes committed in Srebrenica intended to destroy the Muslims living there.

‘Heinous crimes’

The judge also ruled that Mladic carried out and personally oversaw a deadly campaign of sniping and shelling in Sarajevo.”The crimes committed rank among the most heinous known to humankind,” he said.

The former general initially appeared relaxed as he listened intently to the verdict but was later removed from the courtroom after he shouted at the judges when he was refused an adjournment. His lawyer said Mladic needed a break for treatment of high blood pressure but the continued reading the verdict after Mladic removal from court.

Wednesday’s verdict was long awaited by tens of thousands of victims across former Yugoslavia, and dozens gathered early outside the courtroom, many clutching photos of loved ones who died or are among the 7,000 still missing. The court said, however, it was “not convinced” of genocidal intent in six other municipalities, in line with previous judgments.

“We’re sad and disappointed because Mladic wasn’t declared responsible for the genocide in Prijedor and in the other five municipalities that were listed,” Sejida Karabasic, from Prijedor, said. “3,176 people [killed] in Prijedor isn’t enough in order to prove that there was a mass killing. So, more than 10,000 of us should have been killed in order to prove that genocide happened there,” Karabasic said.

“There were mass rapes, killings, concentration camps. They found the largest mass graves in the Prijedor region, none of that was enough for the verdict to include genocide,” she added. Munir Habibovic, a Srebrenica resident, said he was satisfied with the punishment. We weren’t expecting anything less,” he said, while agreeing that Mladic should have been found guilty of genocide in the six additional municipalities.

Speaking on behalf of the association for Parents of Children Killed in Besieged Sarajevo, Fikret Grabovica told Al Jazeera, that “no such punishment exists for Mladic to get what he deserves”.
“But we can be a partly satisfied with this verdict. It’s very important that he received a life sentence… what I’m particularly glad about is that the indictment confirmed the terrorising and sniping of the civil population of Sarajevo, in which 1,600 children were killed,” Grabovica said.

The former general, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, was accused of 11 counts – including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his forces during the war in Bosnia from 1992 and 1995.

Many Bosnian Serbs, however, view Mladic as a national hero who helped Serbia through the war that broke up former Yugoslavia. Serbian daily newspapers on Wednesday featured photos of Mladic on the front page with captions reading “I’m innocent; they can’t take my soul” and “I’m not guilty.”

Al Jazeera’s Marko Subotic, reporting from Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, said support for Mladic there is still widespread.

“The media in Serbia never reported on what the Serbian army, under the command of Mladic, committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because of this, researchers say residents are confused because they don’t know why Mladic is standing trial at the tribunal in the Netherlands,” Subotic said. “A study in 2012 concluded that 42 percent of residents in Serbia don’t know why Mladic is being tried at all. They know more about what went on while he was in hiding; they know that he was looking for strawberries when he was arrested in Serbia in 2011.”

Mladic’s trial was the last before the tribunal and came as the court in The Hague prepared to close its doors next month.

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Gunman targets African migrants in Italy’s Macerata

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AL JAZEERA — A gunman has injured six African migrants in the Italian city of Macerata in a series of drive-by shootings that appear to have been racially motivated.

The shooting took place on Saturday morning in the central Italian city. Italian state police said that at least one person was in serious condition.

A 28-year-old white Italian man, identified by police as Luca Traini, was arrested on suspicion of being involved in the shootings. A video posted on local media shows the suspect wearing an Italian flag around his neck at the time of his arrest.

Italian news agency Ansa reported Traini made a fascist salute when he was arrested.

The shootings started around 11am local time (10:00 GMT). Shots were fired at various locations in the city, including close to the train station.

Italian police told people to take shelter indoors on Twitter.

Anti-immigrant sentiment
The shootings took place days after the dismembered body of an 18-year-old Italian woman was found in two suitcases near Macerata. A Nigerian man has been arrested in connection with the woman’s death.

Italy will vote in a general election on March 4. Observers have warned that anti-migration rhetoric in the country has been mainstreamed.

“The expectations are now for [anti-migrant sentiments] to become a big issue,” Italian journalist Lorenzo Luzi told Al Jazeera from Ancona.

“The timing is so close [to the general elections] that it will become political sooner rather than later.”

Italian media reported that Traini ran as a candidate in local elections in Corridonia last year with the far-right Lega party.

Matteo Salvini, Lega’s leader, condemned Saturday’s shootings. He added that “out-of-control immigration” leads to social conflict.

The leader of Italy’s Democratic Party PD, Matteo Renzi, called for calm in a Facebook post.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that “hatred and violence will not be able to divide us”.

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Far-right German politician converts to Islam, quits AfD party

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A leading politician from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has converted to Islam and resigned from his position with the anti-Muslim party, the party has confirmed.
Arthur Wagner, a leading member of the far-right party in Germany’s eastern German state of Brandenburg, stepped down for “personal reasons”, a party spokesperson confirmed, according to state broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Wagner, who has been a member of the party since 2015, refused to comment to Tagesspiegel, the daily newspaper that first broke the news of his conversion.

“That’s my private business,” he told the daily.

On the party’s Brandenburg state committee, Wagner’s work focused on churches and faith communities, according to Deutsche Welle.

The AfD has campaigned against refugees and migrants and made history when it won 12.6 percent of the vote in federal elections in September 2017, entering the Bundestag for the first time.

newsinideThe party became the third largest party in the Bundestag.

The news sparked derision on social media, with many Twitter users pointing to the irony of Wagner converting to Islam after being a high-ranking member of a party that has railed against the presence of Muslims in Germany.

Emily Dische-Becker said: “Creeping Sharia picks up speed as politician from Germany’s islamophobic AfD converts to Islam.”

Mark Berry said: “I really don’t understand Nazis.”

‘Islam is a foreign entity’The AfD has long denied accusations that it is Islamophobic.
Originally founded in 2013 as a Eurosceptic party, the AfD took the lead as the most aggressive anti-refugee voice in the country while nearly a million asylum seekers arrived in Germany in 2015.

In the party’s first bill since its electoral success in September, the AfD proposed amending Germany’s Residence Act by barring refugees from bringing their relatives from the war-ravaged countries they fled.

Earlier this month, Beatrix von Storch, the deputy leader of the AfD’s parliamentary group, was blocked from Facebook and Twitter after publishing Islamophobic posts criticising police for posting Arabic-language updates on New Year’s Eve.

She had written: “What the hell is happening in this country? Why is an official police site tweeting in Arabic? Do you think it is to appease the barbaric, gang-raping hordes of Muslim men?”

The party has also sought to ban the construction of mosques in Germany.

In March 2016, the party’s Bavaria branch published a policy statement calling for an end to the “construction and operation” of mosques in the region, Deutsche Welle reported at the time.

In February of that year, then party leader Petry Frauke sparked outrage when she proclaimed that German border guards should “use fire arms if necessary” in order to prevent “illegal border crossings” by refugees and migrants.

In April 2016, the AfD’s Alexander Gauland proclaimed that Germany must remain “a Christian country” and “Islam is a foreign entity”.

The rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric has also coincided with a spike in violence against asylum seekers.

The German interior ministry documented 3,533 attacks on refugees and their accommodations – nearly 10 a day – in 2016.

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How did Slobodan Praljak obtain ‘poison’?

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Two investigations will seek to uncover how a Bosnian Croat war criminal managed to commit suicide during a hearing at a UN court by drinking a deadly substance.

Security measures at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia where Slobodan Praljak took his life on Wednesday are tight. But there are ways to evade the scanners and prying eyes.

Dutch lawyer Goran Sluiter, a professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam, explains how, saying it was more than likely Praljak had an accomplice.

How did he get the liquid?

“There are three scenarios. He got hold of the liquid in the detention centre, while being transported from the prison to the courtroom, or inside the courtroom itself. But I would be very surprised if he got it during the transport, as it’s a very short lapse of time.”
It is possible that “the liquid he drank was a medicine that he had received in the centre for treatment, but which he then stashed away.

“If he got hold of the bottle inside the courtroom then that reduces the circle of people who could have helped him. So you are thinking about the lawyers.

“Whatever happened, there are very strong chances that he had help.”

What security measures are in place?

“When they arrive at the court, the detainees pass through security controls. Then — before the hearing and afterwards, before returning to the detention centre — the accused are kept in holding cells.

“At the detention centre, we lawyers must pass through two security controls. One at the entrance to the Scheveningen detention centre which comes under the authority of the Dutch, and then again when entering the part of the jail reserved for ICTY suspects which is under the authority of UN guards. We are scanned like at an airport. The UN controls are much stricter than those done by the Dutch.

“At the court, the suspects have to pass through security controls which detect metal and drugs. But it is not always possible to stop drugs. Medicines, for example, can be mixed with water, and passed off as a bottle of water.”

Are there pat-downs?

“This is not a terrorist unit, so the pat-downs are less strict. My bottles of water have never been controlled, for example. Clothing is felt to see if it contains a weapon. Praljak could have quite easily hidden this small bottle in one of his bodily cavities.

“When someone really wants to end their life, they will always find a way to do it.”

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