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Former Bosnian-Serb President Ordered Released Pending Trial - 2001-08-29

A former president of the Bosnian-Serb Republic has won permission from the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague to be released from custody until her trial takes place. The tribunal ordered the release of Biljana Plavsic a day before former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is to make his second appearance in court.

The tribunal says Ms. Plavsic, who surrendered voluntarily to the court last January, should be released as soon as possible. She will be allowed to reside in the Yugoslav republic of Serbia until her trial starts early next year.

Ms. Plavsic is the only woman in detention at the U.N. facility for war crimes suspects in The Hague suburb of Scheveningen. She is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The decision to provisionally release her from U.N. custody came a day after the tribunal refused to allow another top Bosnian-Serb leader, Momcilo Krajisnik, to attend a memorial service for his father in Bosnia's Serb Republic. Tribunal officials said Tuesday they did not trust guarantees by the Bosnian-Serb entity that Mr. Krajisnik would return to The Hague for trial if he were given permission to attend the service.

Mr. Krajisnik was arrested by NATO-led peacekeepers last year. He is a former head of the Bosnian-Serb parliament and an ally of Bosnian-Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, who, though indicted, is still in hiding. Mr. Krajisnik is also charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against Bosnian Croats and Muslims, and is to be tried with Ms. Plavsic.

Thursday, the tribunal will grapple with an uncooperative Slobodan Milosevic, who has refused to mount a defense and has challenged the court's legitimacy to try him.

During his first appearance before the tribunal last month, Mr. Milosevic said it has no jurisdiction over him because his arrest and transfer to the court's custody violated Yugoslav domestic law. Prosecutors say he was arrested and transferred to The Hague under the tribunal's statutes and applicable international law.

Thursday's hearing will deal with preparations for the former Yugoslav leader's trial, which is not expected to occur until next year. He is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes for the killing, by Yugoslav security forces, of hundreds of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999.