Former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, whose war crimes trial began on Wednesday, made a "throat-slitting" gesture at a widow of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre who was in the court, she told AFP.
"At one moment, Mladic looked towards the public. I think he has recognized us, the women of Srebrenica, and then made a gesture moving his hand over the throat, meaning 'I will slit your throat'," Munira Subasic told AFP by phone from The Hague.
Subasic heads the "Mothers of Srebrenica" organisation representing widows and victims of the Srebrenica massacre when 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Mladic's troops in July 1995.
"Then I showed him a gesture meaning handcuffed hands. He reacted, but no one heard it. We began screaming to him 'Butcher!' and 'Criminal'," said Subasic who was in the audience at the trial.
Nerma Jelacic, the UN tribunal's spokeswoman, told Serbian state agency that "there has been a communication between the defendant and people at the gallery."
"But I can not confirm what exactly happened," she said.
Subasic said the judge has ordered a pause inproceedings after the incident, so that calm could return.
"The judge told us to not to pay attention to him and to Mladic to concentrate on the indictment," said Subasic, whose son, husband and twenty other family members were killed in Srebrenica, one of the charges in the indictment against the former Bosnian Serb general.
The incident between Mladic and the Bosnian war victims was confirmed by a Bosnian public television FTV journalist who was at the scene, as well as another man in the audience.
"He made a gesture which means 'I will cut your throat again'," said Zijo Smajlovic of Bosnia's association "Justice, Peace and Return."
Subasic said Mladic "is a criminal who has not changed."
"One can see it in his eyes. He regrets nothing. But, thank God, he is in prison now and no longer master of life and death," she said.
Now 70, Mladic has been indicted on 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the Balkan country's brutal 1992-95 war that killed 100,000 people and left 2.2 million homeless.