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Milosevic Renews Attack on Hague Court - 2002-02-13

Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic has challenged the legitimacy of the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague on the second day of his trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. Mr. Milosevic denounced his trial as a "lynch process" and said his conviction has already been decided.

After two days of listening to prosecutors charge that he masterminded a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic lashed back at the tribunal Wednesday. He said it had "no competence to try him". And he reiterated that his arrest last year by Serb authorities was illegal because it violated the Serbian and Yugoslav constitutions.

Mr. Milosevic, who was supposed to make his opening statement after prosecutors finished presenting their case against him, said there was not enough time to do so because the court was scheduled to adjourn. So he will make his formal speech on Thursday, and it is expected to take up most of the day.

But he seized the opportunity given to him to demand that the court answer his previous challenges to its legitimacy. He accused the court of partiality and charged chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte with orchestrating a media campaign against him.

Mr. Milosevic said the prosecutor has already proclaimed his sentence and judgment through the news media in a kind of parallel trial. He added the media and the court itself are part of a lynch process.

At that point, presiding Judge Richard May cut him off.

The judge said the court has already ruled on its own legitimacy and that Mr. Milosevic's views on the subject are irrelevant. The judge said Mr. Milosevic would have known that, had he bothered to read the court documents that are regularly delivered to him.

Earlier Wednesday, the prosecution continued with its description of the horrors it says Mr. Milosevic unleashed in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo during his decade-long rule of Serbia and then Yugoslavia. It showed videotapes of massacre sites and concentration camps, and it outlined the string of murders and deportations for which it maintains Mr. Milosevic bears ultimate responsibility.

Mr. Milosevic's legal advisers say he will argue Thursday that he did what he did to protect the Serbian people and that he was seen by western leaders as a peace partner and not as a warmonger.