Vukovar suspect Goran Hadzic pleads not guilty

Goran Hadzic in court for his first appearance before the Hague tribunal, 25 July
Image caption Goran Hadzic refused to plead at his first appearance in July

Goran Hadzic, the last major war crimes suspect sought by The Hague, has pleaded not guilty to crimes at Vukovar during the Croatian conflict.

The former commander of Serb rebel forces during the 1991-95 war is charged with 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He had refused to enter a plea at his initial appearance before the international tribunal in July.

Mr Hadzic was arrested in Serbia after seven years on the run.

He was a central figure in the self-proclaimed Serb republic of Krajina in 1992-1993, leading the campaign to block Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia.

He is held responsible for the massacre of almost 300 men in Vukovar in 1991 by Croatian Serb troops and for the deportation of 20,000 people from the town after it was captured.

After the war, Mr Hadzic lived openly in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad until 2004, when the Hague War Crimes Tribunal indicted him and he disappeared.

The breakthrough came when he tried to sell a stolen painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani.

Mr Hadzic was the last fugitive of 161 indicted for war crimes during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

His arrest came less than two months after Serbia caught former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic.

Correspondents say the country hopes the arrests and extraditions will allow it to draw a line under its war crimes legacy and move closer to European Union membership.

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