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Mladic cousin ‘hid war crimes fugitive for five years’

Ratko Mladic is on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague (© 2009 AFP)

A cousin of Bosnian Serb ex-army chief Ratko Mladic said he hid the war crimes fugitive for five years in his house in northeastern Serbia, a local daily reported Friday.

Branislav Mladic told the Vecernji Novosti daily that he had also nursed his cousin through a stroke and at one point feared he might die. In the end, police arrested Mladic at the house in 2011.

Ratko Mladic, now on trial at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, is a “member of the family and I refuse to disown him,” he told the paper.

“What kind of person would I be if I had refused to help my cousin?” he asked.

A Serbian court is considering what action to take against Branislav Mladic for harbouring the fugitive. He said he would learn his fate next Wednesday.

Bruno Vekaric, a spokesman for Serbia’s war crimes court, told AFP that prosecutors had reached a deal with Branislav Mladic “that he pleads guilty and in exchange he will be given a suspended sentence of one year.”

Branislav Mladic told the paper he had stayed in touch with his cousin in The Hague with phone calls and letters.

Ratko Mladic was on the run for 16 years before being arrested on May 26, 2011, at his cousin’s house in the village of Lazarevo, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Belgrade.

The 70-year-old is being tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

The inter-ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslav republic claimed some 100,000 lives.

Signature : BELGRADE (AFP)

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