THE HAGUE, Netherlands, May 19 (UPI) -- The defense phase in the long war crimes trial of Ratko Mladic began Monday in The Hague, Netherlands.
Mladic, 72, is accused of 11 charges of conducting a prolonged assault of the city of Sarajevo during the 1992-1995 Balkans war, and specifically of a role in the deaths of 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica. He has denounced the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and has claimed he was merely a soldier following instructions.
Mile Sladoje, former Serbian army assistant commander, was the first witness called in Mladic's defense Monday. He denied receiving orders from Mladic to target civilians during a three-year campaign that killed over 10,000 people in Sarajevo.
"All our activities were defense activities. There were standing orders; fire could only be returned in response to enemy fire," Sladoje said in testimony. "I know nobody gave orders to shoot civilians."
The defense has been afforded 207 hours to call witnesses, the same amount of time prosecutors used.