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War Crimes Suspect Pleads Guilty

October 2, 2002

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Bosnian Serb wartime leader Biljana Plavsic, one of the highest-ranking suspects at the U.N. war crimes tribunal, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of crimes against humanity.

Plavsic, 72, has been named as a possible witness against other leading suspects, such as former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, now on trial for genocide and war crimes in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Speaking by video-link from a tribunal office in Yugoslavia, Plavsic said: ``I plead guilty″ to the crime of persecution.

After Plavsic changed her plea, prosecutors dropped all other charges against her.

Plavsic, who surrendered to the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in January 2001 and was released on her own recognizance, had pleaded innocent to eight counts of war crimes, including genocide, relating to her alleged criminal role in Bosnia’s 3 1/2-year war.

The panel of three U.N. judges ruled that Plavsic could remain outside the tribunal’s custody until she is summoned for sentencing.

``Mrs. Plavsic, we are taking a wholly exceptional course in your case and for reasons of security we shall continue your provisional release,″ said presiding judge Richard May.

May told Plavsic that her being allowed to remain free should not be seen as ``any indication as to the sentence to be passed.″

Plavsic, the only woman indicted by the court, was an ally of the Bosnian Serb wartime president, Radovan Karadzic, whom she joined in rejecting a multiethnic independent Bosnia, fueling the Bosnian conflict.

She was released in September following nine months of detention at the U.N. facility outside The Hague after Yugoslavia guaranteed she would return for trial, set tentatively for January.

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