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Milosevic Again Defiant in The Hague


Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has made a second dramatic appearance before the U.N. international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Mr. Milosevic adopted the same combative attitude toward the court that he took during his first appearance last month.

It was act two of what promises to be a continuing drama with three actors. Mr. Milosevic, who is determined to turn the proceedings into a political platform; the prosecutors, who want to make their case against him; and presiding judge Richard May, who insists that there be no deviation from normal legal procedures.

Judge May announced the tribunal will appoint a lawyer a so-called friend of the court to assist it in making sure that the defendant's interests are protected and that he gets a fair trial.

Mr. Milosevic has consistently refused to appoint his own defense counsel because, in his view, the indictment against him for war crimes in Kosovo during his crackdown against ethnic Albanians there in 1999 is illegal and the court has no right to try him.

When the judge asked Mr. Milosevic if he had anything to say, the former Yugoslav leader adopted the same defiant tone as he did during his first court appearance in July. Then Judge May cut off his microphone after Mr. Milosevic called the court illegitimate and described it as a tool of NATO.

Mr. Milosevic: "Can I speak? Or you are going to turn off my microphone like first time?"
Judge May: "Mr. Milosevic, if you follow the rules, you will be able to speak. If you deal with relevant matters, of course, you will be able to speak."

Mr. Milosevic said he wanted to devote 40 minutes to reading an argument against the legitimacy of the court, but Judge May ordered him to submit it in writing instead.

Mr. Milosevic then described his detention conditions as a massive violation of his rights. He complained that he is isolated from his family and that prison authorities even monitor his phone conversations with his two-and-a-half-year-old grandson. He also complained about lack of access to the news media. "Why am I isolated from the press, especially in the circumstances in which every single day there is something printed or broadcast against me as a pure lie," he asked? "So you are keeping me in isolation not to communicate with the press, even by telephone, which is the only means available to me?"

Earlier this week, the court reprimanded the former Yugoslav leader for calling a U.S. television network to denounce the charges against him. Mr. Milosevic said he acted to defend his country against what he called terrorists.

Judge May pressed prosecutors to complete building their case against Mr. Milosevic by early next year. Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte says that by October she will file new indictments, including one for genocide, against Mr. Milosevic for alleged crimes in Bosnia and Croatia during the early 1990's. She also plans to amend the Kosovo indictment to include new evidence gathered from recently discovered mass graves of ethnic Albanians in Serbia.

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