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Judge Pleads Not Guilty on Hartmann's Behalf

French journalist’s decision not to enter plea is overruled by Judge Carmel Agius.
By Simon Jennings
A judge hearing the case of Florence Hartmann, former spokesperson for the prosecution at the Hague tribunal, pleaded “not guilty” to contempt of court charges on her behalf.

Although Hartmann’s lawyer, William Bourdon, attempted to explain to the court that his client did not wish to enter a plea, he was interrupted by presiding judge Carmel Agius.

“I am now proceeding to enter a plea of ‘not guilty’ on behalf of the accused on both counts,” Judge Agius told the parties this week.

Under tribunal rules, a judge may enter a plea of not guilty if a defendant does not enter a plea at a first, or any further appearance, before the court.

Hartmann was spokesperson to the former chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, from 1999 until 2006 and is charged on two counts of contempt for allegedly revealing the contents of confidential decisions made by appeal judges at the tribunal.

The decisions relate to proceedings against former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, whose uncompleted war crimes trial ran from 2002 until he died in his cell in March 2006.

According to the order issued by the trial chamber in place of an indictment on August 27, Hartmann is responsible for “knowingly and willfully disclosing information in knowing violation of an order of [judges]”.

The court order states that the disclosures were made in Hartmann’s 2007 book Paix and Chatiment (Peace and Punishment), and in an article, Vital Genocide Documents Concealed, which was published on the Bosnian Institute website on January 21, 2008.

Hartmann allegedly revealed elements of two confidential decisions – made by appeals judges on September 20, 2005 and April 6, 2006 – while at the same time acknowledging that they were confidential.

If found guilty, Hartmann could face a fine of up to 100,000 euro or a maximum prison sentence of seven years, or both.

Hartmann first appeared before the court on October 27, but refused to enter a plea because the court’s registry had not yet decided whether to grant her financial aid. The court subsequently ruled on November 13 that the accused was financially indigent and entitled to legal aid to cover the cost of her defence.

However, Hartmann once again refused to plead this week, following a motion filed by Bourdon who requested that evidence disclosed to the defence by prosecutor Bruce MacFarlane be supplied in French. Although MacFarlane had couriered a CD-ROM containing documentary evidence within the deadline set by judges, the documents were in English.

“The documents are not in French. I may be very naive, I was expecting the documents to be disclosed in French. French is an official language of this tribunal and Miss Hartmann is of French nationality. It’s common sense,” Bourdon explained in court.

In his written request, Bourdon referred to the tribunal’s statute which entitles an accused “to be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him”.

Judge Agius insisted that court time was not to be taken up discussing motions and said that judges would reach a decision on the matter.

Hartmann – who was smiling and looking more confident than during her previous appearance – informed Judge Agius that the evidence disclosed by the prosecution was also incomplete.

“I believe that the documents disclosed by Mr MacFarlane are not sufficient,” she said. “In one part, a reference was made to a testimony that is not at all disclosed.”

Bourdon requested that all testimony gathered by the prosecutor be supplied to the defence and said he would file a written request to the judges to ask for it to be done.

“We believe in order for us to be able to defend ourselves, we need to be notified of the full content of the interviews conducted by Mr MacFarlane,” said Bourdon. “We find the disclosure as it is now not sufficient. We believe it is not complete, not the full document.”

Judge Agius attempted to set a firm trial date this week after suggestions at the October 27 hearing that January would suit both parties.

Although MacFarlane confirmed his availability in January, Bourdon said he was no longer available then and would now be available in February. Judge Agius pointed out that this was contrary to what he had said in the previous hearing where he stated that he was busy in February and available in January.

“I do not claim to be the busiest lawyer in the world but I do have heavy constraints,” explained Bourdon, citing a case he is involved in which is taking place in Paris during January.

“I endeavour to accommodate you as much as I can, but I really am busy in January,” he said, adding that a trial date in the third or fourth week of February would suit him.

“In order to make your work easier, I will file a motion to specify when I am not available for trial so we can arrive at a date that is best for all.”

Judge Agius told the parties he would inform them of the trial date “very shortly”.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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