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Judges Urge Milosevic to Hire Lawyer; Express Concern About his Health - 2002-07-25

After receiving medical reports that Slobodan Milosevic is at serious risk of a heart attack, judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal Thursday urged him to consider hiring a lawyer to ease his workload. The former Yugoslav president has been defending himself before court.

The three judges say they are very concerned; a medical examination they ordered for the former president shows that he's at severe cardio-vascular risk. His doctors recommend reducing his workload.

That's not an easy task for Slobodan Milsoevic, who has been conducting his own defense against war crimes charges allegedly committed in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia. He's in court five hours a day, where he spends much of that time vigorously cross-examining witnesses.

Outside of court, he has tens of thousands of pages of evidence to sift through. On Thursday, judges recommended he hire a lawyer to do some of that work for him. But Mr. Milosevic held firm to the position he has taken since his trial began. "I do not recognize this court," he stated, "and I have no intention of appointing counsel to a non-existent court."

Slobodan Milosevic said he never wanted a medical examination in the first place, and only agreed to it to be civil. Now that the results are in, he told judges, it's their problem, not his.

The court has already lost about a month of time due to Mr. Milosevic's poor heath. Judges are intent on having a quick trial, and on Thursday ordered prosecutors to finish presenting their case by next May and reduce their witness list by about 100.

Meanwhile, the first member of Mr. Milosevic's inner circle testified against his former boss. Rade Markovic, who once headed Serbia's state security service, told the court how Milosevic ordered cash to be diverted from the federal customs agency to finance Serbian state police in Kosovo. Daily reports of what was happening there, he testified, went directly to the president.