- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2000

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia A Belgrade court yesterday found President Clinton and other world leaders guilty of war crimes and sentenced them in absentia to 20 years in prison for NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
The four-day trial was held in an attempt to resurrect anti-NATO sentiment here and win votes for President Slobodan Milosevic in advance of Sunday's elections.
The charges, listed in a 120-page indictment, included "inciting an aggressive war and committing war crimes against a civilian population," as well as use of illegal means of warfare, attempted murder and "violation of the territorial integrity" of Yugoslavia.
Belgrade's district court pronounced Mr. Clinton and 13 other leaders and NATO officials "guilty as charged" and ordered warrants issued immediately for their arrest.
Court-appointed lawyers were hired to represent the defendants. As each 20-year sentence was read aloud, the crowd behind a row of 14 empty chairs bearing nameplates of the accused stood and applauded.
"The accused were fully conscious of their actions. They perpetrated the socially most dangerous acts," presiding Judge Veroljub Raketic told about 100 spectators and media representatives present at the sentencing.
Mr. Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac, as well as NATO former Secretary-General Javier Solana and retired commander Gen. Wesley Clark, all were accused last month of war crimes connected with the 78-day 1999 bombing campaign.
In theory, a third country could also arrest any of the defendants and send them to Yugoslavia to face that country's legal system, as Britain considered doing in the case of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet. However, that is considered unlikely as Yugoslavia has no allies that would dare to anger the Western powers in this way.
The show trials turn the tables on the West, which secured Mr. Milosevic's indictment by an international tribunal on Balkan war crimes in May 1999 and has threatened to seek his arrest if he ventures outside Yugoslavia.
A U.S. official said this week the United States also is seeking an appropriate forum where Iraqi President Saddam Hussein can be indicted and tried for crimes against humanity.
At the Belgrade trial, Judge Raketic declared that the accused "had been notified and summoned to this trial through their attorneys, but they have ignored this court, either because they were afraid of it or they were fully aware of their guilt."
The Belgrade judge also ordered the defendants to pay the cost of the trial and pronounced NATO guilty of the deaths of 546 Yugoslav army soldiers, 138 Serbian policemen and 504 civilians 88 of them children.
Yugoslavia suffered heavily in the bombing, conducted last year to halt Mr. Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Mr. Milosevic has campaigned on a mixture of anti-NATO slogans and self-awarded kudos for leading the country's "heroic reconstruction" after the bombing, apparently in the hope this will translate into votes on Sunday.
During the trial, footage of the NATO bombing was shown, but no witnesses testified because the list of plaintiffs included "all citizens of Yugoslavia and no courtroom was big enough to hold all witnesses," Judge Raketic said.

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