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Milosevic War Crimes Trial Resumes - 2004-08-31


The trial of Slobodan Milosevic on war crimes charges has resumed in The Hague with the former Yugoslav president launching a spirited defense. His testimony more than two years after the trial began has been delayed, in part, because of his health.

The 63-year-old former leader was defiant as he opened his defense against charges of crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.

Slobodan Milosevic branded the accusations against him as an "unscrupulous lie" and a "distortion of history." He said what he described as a "multi-ethnic, multi-confessional state" was destroyed and that this was, in his words, a "grave international crime."

Mr. Milosevic argued that Serbia's actions were in response to rebellions by other ethnic groups and to outside threats by Islamic extremists who took advantage of tensions in the former Yugoslavia to stir up trouble in the Balkans.

He told the U.N. tribunal that thousands of Serbs were killed or driven from their homes in Croatia before the Yugoslav army reacted. He called this a rebellion against a state and insisted that a state has the right to control a rebellion.

Mr. Milosevic has accused the court of being biased against him and the Serbian people, and says the trial is designed to cover up NATO war crimes in Kosovo.

The former leader is charged with more than 60 counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity during the Balkan wars of the 1990s that killed more than 200,000 people.

Mr. Milosevic wants to call more than 1000 witnesses, including former president Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The former Yugoslav leader has 150 trial days allotted to tell his side of the story. If convicted of any of the charges he could face life in prison. Prosecutors ended their case in January after hearing more than 290 witnesses.

The judges must still decide whether to override Mr. Milosevic's objections and appoint a lawyer for the former president, who is conducting his own defense.

Mr. Milosevic has suffered from reported periods of high blood pressure, flu and exhaustion during the trial, causing delays.

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