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Milosevic Trial Resumes - 2004-10-12


Former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic is back in court following a one-month recess granted to his court-appointed lawyers, who needed time to prepare their case. The lawyers called their fourth witness today - a German journalist who testified that Kosovo Albanians provoked Serb forces into excessive violence during the conflict in the province in the late 1990s.

Mr. Milosevic's court-appointed lawyers spent the past month trying to get witnesses to come to the Hague Tribunal to testify. Over 250 of them said they wouldn't unless Mr. Milosevic, who refuses to recognize both the court and his appointed lawyers, got to conduct his own defense. His lawyers have even appealed their appointment, although a decision on that hasn't yet been handed down.

Although there were no details in court Tuesday about the progress of the reluctant defense, there was testimony from a witness for the defense, Franz-Josef Hutsch. The German military-officer-turned-journalist was a war correspondent in Kosovo in 1998 and 99. During that time, NATO bombed the province in an effort to halt what prosecutors say was Mr. Milosevic's unlawful crackdown on ethnic Albanians, which led to hundreds of murders and the deportation of some 800,000 ethnic Albanians. The former Yugoslav leader insists he was waging a legitimate war against terrorists.

In court Tuesday, witness Hutsch seemed to partly back him up. The self-described embedded journalist with the Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA, said U.S. army consultants recruited mercenaries from Bosnia's radical Muslim fighters to serve as officers in Kosovo. Mr. Hutsch also testified that the KLA used hit and run tactics against Serb forces to get them to respond with excessive force and draw NATO into the conflict. He said they trafficked women and drugs to get money to buy better equipment. And, Mr. Hutsch testified, they forced civilians to stay in villages that were under Serb attack. He spoke through an interpreter.

"Things were being staged. The KLA seemed to be advised by a very good PR [public relations] agent," he said. "There were situations - refugees [were] kept in the woods until Western journalists visited the refugee camps."

Mr. Hutsch also said he interviewed General Ratko Mladic in 1996, the year after the Srebrenica massacres in which more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were executed by forces under the general's command. Mr. Milosevic, along with General Mladic, is charged with genocide for what happened there. But Mr. Hutsch testified that General Mladic told him he received no orders from Belgrade or Mr. Milosevic regarding the attack and that he wouldn't have taken any.

In other Tribunal news, a high-ranking Bosnian Serb Colonel, Ljubisa Beara, postponed entering his pleas to six counts of war crimes, including genocide, for his role in the Srebrenica massacres. Transferred to The Hague over the weekend after two years on the run, Mr. Beara used his court time to urge his wartime colleagues to surrender to the tribunal.

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