updated 8/30/2006 5:55:11 PM ET 2006-08-30T21:55:11

War crimes prosecutors have demanded a life sentence for a former top Bosnian Serb politician charged with genocide for allegedly helping orchestrate atrocities during Bosnia’s 1991-95 war.

Momcilo Krajisnik was speaker of parliament and the right-hand man of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader indicted on genocide charges stemming from the 1991-1995 Bosnian war in which an estimated 200,000 people died.

Prosecutors argue Krajisnik was part of an inner circle of Bosnian Serb leaders who masterminded atrocities targeting Bosnia’s Muslim and Croat populations.

Krajisnik has pleaded innocent at the U.N. Yugoslav tribunal to eight charges including genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity.

“Each count of the indictment individually, if found to be true, merits the highest possible sentence,” prosecutor Alan Tieger told the court late Tuesday.

Tieger said that the gravity of the crimes and lack of mitigating circumstances meant that, “It is our submission that Mr. Krajisnik should be sentenced to prison for life.”

The trial, which began in February 2004, is wrapping up this week. A verdict is expected before the end of September.

Only one person has been given a life sentence by the court. Former Bosnian Serb politician Milomir Stakic was sentenced to life in 2003, but an appeal court later changed his term to 40 years.

Karadzic remains on the run 11 years after being indicted.

Krajisnik was indicted together with former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, who pleaded guilty to persecution and was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2003 after making a deal with prosecutors.

Plavsic was brought from her Swedish prison cell to testify against Krajisnik.

“He was a very powerful man,” she told judges last month. “I think in certain matters he even dominated the president of the republic, Karadzic.”

Krajisnik’s defense lawyer Nicholas Stewart portrayed his client Wednesday as a cog in the machinery of the Bosnian Serb mini-state who was not closely aligned to Karadzic, sought peace early in the conflict and did not advocate targeting people based on their ethnicity.

Stewart said that before full-scale war erupted in Bosnia, Krajisnik “was genuine, sincere, active and energetic in his pursuit of the peaceful solution.”

“He knew if there was a war a lot of people would be killed,” he said. “There is not the slightest indication Mr. Krajisnik wanted anybody to be killed because of what they were ... or who they were.”

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