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 Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 17:18 GMT
Plavsic faces call for 25-year sentence
Biljana Plavsic
Plavsic made a surprise guilty plea in October
Prosecutors at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague have called for a prison sentence of up to 25 years for the former Bosnian Serb President, Biljana Plavsic.

Seventy-two-year-old Mrs Plavsic pleaded guilty to persecuting Muslims and Croats during the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina in the 1990s.

WITNESSES
Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Swedish diplomat Carl Bildt
Former OSCE mission head Robert Frowick
Nobel Peace prize winner Elie Wiesel
Former Bosnian Serb PM Milorad Dodik
Former deputy head of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Alex Boraine

The chief war crimes prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, told judges that the prosecution would have asked for a life sentence if Mrs Plavsic had not admitted her guilt in instigating human rights violations in Bosnia.

Lawyers for both sides have been making final arguments on the last day of the three-day hearing before the judges retire to consider what sentence to pass.

Mrs Del Ponte said that she was not convinced that Mrs Plavsic had shown total remorse, as she has refused to co-operate fully with the prosecution and testify in other trials.

But the judges said that, as she had co-operated well so far and may still decide to co-operate further, this should not go against her.

Mrs Plavsic's age is also being taken into consideration.

Her lawyers said that at the age of 72, a sentence of 25 years amounted to life in prison and they urged the court to impose a light sentence, to set an incentive for other indictees who may wish to plead guilty to war crimes.

Mrs Plavsic's confession is being seen as contributing to the reconciliation process in the former Yugoslavia, says the BBC's Hague correspondent Geraldine Coughlan.

Mrs Plavsic's lawyer said a longer sentence may discourage others from facing up to their prejudices of the past.

Changed plea

Mrs Plavsic is the highest-ranking Serb leader to admit to crimes against humanity and the only woman to appear before the tribunal.

Mrs Plavsic was a deputy of wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is now at the top of the prosecutors' wanted list.

She was originally charged with genocide, persecution, extermination and deportation - but all but one charge was dropped after she pleaded guilty to persecution.

Her lawyers said her changed plea showed "her remorse fully and unconditionally".

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Matthew Price
"For prosecutors at The Hague this was Christmas come early"
  The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
"The prosecution gave a grim account of Biljana Plavsic's crimes"

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