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Autopsy to Determine Cause of Milosevic Death


Prosecutors at the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, say they are waiting for the results of an autopsy on former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to determine the cause of death. Lauren Comiteau files this VOA report from The Hague, where the former Yugoslav president had been on trial for four years for war crimes.

Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte said it was a great pity for justice that Slobodan Milosevic's trial will never be completed, and no verdict will ever be handed down.

"Of course, I'm frustrated, of course, after so many years' hard work -- because I can tell you, resources, energy and a lot of obstacles that must be solved, and, of course, a few weeks before the end of the trial, you can imagine what that means," del Ponte said.

But Carla del Ponte said, for the victims, it is not just about the verdict and sentence -- it's about establishing the truth. She was at pains to point out the wealth of information now in the public record because of her case against Milosevic, which saw almost 300 witnesses and five-thousand exhibits.

Responding to criticism that the trial was just too long and unwieldy, she said, if she had to do it again, she would not change a thing. She also said, now, more than ever, it is crucial that Serbia arrest and send to The Hague, the most wanted fugitives, Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic.

A few Milosevic supporters, lit candles and laid flowers outside the tribunal.

Speculation about the cause of his death intensified ahead of the autopsy, with one of Milosevic's legal advisors, Zdanko Tomanovic, saying the former president thought he was being poisoned by people working under the U.N. flag, who wanted to silence him.

The lawyer showed journalists a hand-written letter that he said Milosevic wrote to Russian authorities the day before he died. In it, Mr. Milosevic accused those treating him of giving him antibiotics for a disease he did not have.

"The persons that are giving me drugs for the treatment of leprosy surely cannot be treating me, and, especially those persons from whom I have defended my country in the war, and who also had an interest in silencing me, cannot likewise be treating me," Tomanovic said.

Tribunal officials won't comment until they see the results of the autopsy and the toxicology report. But earlier, Carla del Ponte called speculation about the cause of his death absolute rumor.

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