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Prosecution's Case Against Milosevic Officially Closed


After two years in court, the prosecution's case against Slobodan Milosevic is officially closed. War crimes prosecutors decided to end their case against the former Yugoslav president early because of his bad health and the recent resignation of the trial's presiding judge, who also has health problems.

Prosecutors had two days left to end their case, and four more witnesses to call. But given the recent turn of events, they decided to rest their case early.

Mr. Milosevic, who suffers from high blood pressure, heart trouble, and fatigue, has been sick for the past two weeks, delaying the end of the prosecution's case. Then earlier this week, the trial's presiding judge, Richard May, announced his resignation from the Tribunal. He is also sick, although no details of his illness have been released.

Prosecutors say Judge May's resignation could pose serious difficulties for the overall timetable of the case.

Ending their case without their final witnesses, the prosecutors sought the court's permission to submit additional evidence in writing, including transcripts from closed Serbian parliamentary session. But the judges denied almost all of their requests, including one to admit an interview Mr. Milosevic gave to a Serbian television station, which they say included candid comments by the former president regarding his support for Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia.

Proving Mr. Milosevic's control over Serbs in those former Yugoslav republics is crucial to the prosecution's case. He is charged with 66 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The full fallout from Judge May's resignation remains to be seen. Any judge who replaces him will have to become familiar with the testimony of almost 300 witnesses and some 60,000 pages of court transcripts and documents.

The judges have given Mr. Milosevic three months to prepare for his defense, which they say will start on June 8. He then has 150 days to present his case.

Mr. Milosevic can appeal the continuation of his case or the appointment of a new judge and ask for a re-trial. But experts say a re-trial is not likely.

Mr. Milosevic is representing himself, but one of his Belgrade legal advisers says he has not yet decided how to proceed.