- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004

THE HAGUE — Slobodan Milosevic’s defense case was postponed for a third time yesterday because of his poor health, prompting judges to review whether his trial on charges of war crimes and genocide could go forward.

A medical report read in court said the 62-year-old former Yugoslav president had suffered damage to his heart from the stress of defending himself.

Even after a four-month break in hearings and a shortening of his trial schedule, Mr. Milosevic’s blood pressure was still at dangerously high levels, the report said.

Facing repeated trial delays, prosecutors again pressed the court to impose defense counsel on Mr. Milosevic, who has insisted on representing himself since the trial began in February 2002.

“The trial chamber is clearly of the view that the time has come for a radical review of the trial process and the continuation of the trial in light of the health problems of the accused,” presiding Judge Patrick Robinson said. A ruling on the motion was expected within a few days.

The court has dismissed such motions in the past, saying the defendant’s right to represent himself was more important than a speedy trial.

Mr. Milosevic angrily rejected the proposal. “It is out of the question as you know, nor will I ever agree to it,” he said.

The trial was to have resumed June 8 after a four-month break. Prosecutors questioned nearly 300 witnesses and introduced a large number of documents, videos and other evidence.

The three-judge panel that sat yesterday included a new judge, Iain Bonomy, who replaced the previous senior judge, Richard May of Britain, who died last week.

Mr. Milosevic had been preparing his defense against 66 war-crimes counts in his indictment, stemming from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. His chief Belgrade attorney, Zdenco Tomanovic, said Mr. Milosevic missed 51 working days of his preparation because of illness and was not ready or healthy enough to conduct his defense.

Steven Kay, an independent lawyer appointed to monitor the fairness of the proceedings, said the court should consider that Mr. Milosevic may be too ill to stand trial.

The doctor’s report submitted Friday said Mr. Milosevic had suffered “organ damage” because of high blood pressure, including “hypertrophy of the left ventricle,” meaning an enlargement of the main pumping chamber of the heart.

Trial watchers said the court was likely to appoint a defense attorney, despite Mr. Milosevic’s objections.

Such a ruling would be a severe setback for the former Yugoslav strongman, who still has a wide following in Serbia and whose courtroom polemics have won him renewed popularity at home, nearly four years after he was toppled from power by a popular revolt.

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