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Archive for Friday, August 31, 2001

U.N. reveals genocide charge against former Yugoslav president

August 31, 2001

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— Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic clashed with U.N judges at the war crimes tribunal Thursday, complaining of discrimination and isolation in prison. Minutes later, prosecutors announced they will indict him on charges of genocide.

During a combative 45-minute hearing, the former leader said he is so closely watched that he has not been able to speak in private to his lawyers, his wife, or even to his 2 1/2-year-old grandson, Marko, who visited him on his 60th birthday.

The hearing was the second face-off this month between the dictator who ran Yugoslavia through 13 years and four wars, and the no-nonsense British presiding judge who repeatedly cut Milosevic off and insisted his courtroom would not be a platform for political harangues.

Milosevic faces four counts of war crimes for the murder and persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999. He was transferred to The Hague, Netherlands by Serbian authorities on June 28.

Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said she will file new indictments against Milosevic on Oct. 1 for alleged crimes in Bosnia and Croatia, including a genocide charge for Bosnia. Those indictments would be combined with Kosovo charges and would likely go to trial in the autumn of 2002.

"We will issue an indictment for genocide in Bosnia, possibly Croatia," Del Ponte told journalists.

In the courtroom, Milosevic called the tribunal a "political tool" that lacked jurisdiction. He charged the tribunal with discrimination and keeping him from meeting confidentially with his family and legal advisers.

"Why I am isolated from the persons who would like to see me?" Milosevic asked Judge Richard May. "I have the right to communicate."

Milosevic's tone was defiant, yet more respectful than at his first appearance in July when he told the judge, "that's your problem" when asked if he wanted the indictment read in court.

Judge May gave Milosevic more freedom to speak than before, but shut down Milosevic's microphone when the defendant went off into tangents. "We are not going to listen to these political arguments," he said.

May reminded Milosevic he will be granted the right to confidentiality with attorneys if he appoints formal representation. He agreed to "look into the matters" of detention raised by the former president.

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