- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

THE HAGUE Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic lashed out at his accusers at an international tribunal yesterday, charging he had been denied a fair hearing on the way he was snatched from his Belgrade prison cell and helicoptered out of the country.
Remaining defiant as he had been since his transfer to The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in the Balkans, he declined even to rise from his seat as he set the stage for an aggressive and unorthodox defense.
For almost two days, Mr. Milosevic had sat grim-faced and occasionally fidgeting with his hands as prosecutors outlined their claim that he had masterminded a criminal enterprise to drive non-Serbs out of large chunks of the former Yugoslavia.
But when his turn came, instead of beginning to explain why he considered himself not guilty, the silver-haired 60-year-old delivered from his seat a litany of complaints.
He said he could not get a fair trial when the chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte of Switzerland, already had declared him guilty. Nor could he accept the court's previous dismissal of his contention that his transfer to The Hague was illegal.
The scarlet-robed British presiding judge, Richard May, who had clashed with Mr. Milosevic several times in five pretrial hearings, interrupted to declare that Mr. Milosevic's views on this subject were "irrelevant" since the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had ruled against him.
Persisting nevertheless, the man who had ruled Yugoslavia for a decade said the judge knew "full well" that all courts had a duty to have a proper hearing of claims of illegal detention before any proper trial could get under way.
He noted that the Federal Government of Yugoslavia, comprising Serbia and the much smaller Montenegro, had resigned because of his "illegal" seizure, and that criminal charges were pending in Belgrade.
Some observers saw the rumpus as a ruse to distract media attention from the atrocities of which he stood accused.
Those included claims that he directed preparations to crush ethnic Albanians from a previously semiautonomous Serbian province of Kosovo acts that were to be the subject of the first few months of evidence.
The prosecutors detailed several grisly mass executions, describing them as "snapshots" of the evidence to come.
The incidents included the burning of people inside a coffee shop and a pattern, detected by satellite, in which Serbian forces repeatedly dug up the victims of mass killings and reburied them elsewhere in Serbia sometimes close to or inside official military or police barracks.
The nature of Mr. Milosevic's defense is expected to become clearer today, when he shows the court a 52-minute video that has been made by a Western journalist and scrutinized Tuesday night by his legal advisers.
"It reveals a very different picture of the events described by the prosecution in Kosovo," Mr. Milosevic's youngest but most influential legal adviser, Dragolsav Ognjanovic, said in an interview last night.
Mr. Milosevic was expected to insist that his actions were designed to protect Serbs from aggression, countering the prosecution's claim that he masterminded a plan to expel non-Serbs in the quest for a Greater Serbia.
The prosecuting attorney, the urbane and eloquent Geoffrey Nice of Britain, ended his outline of the charges by contending that all moves in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo displayed "the silhouette of one man that when examined becomes a clear image that of the accused."
Mr. Milosevic's attorney said outside the courtroom that the former strongman's strategy would be fundamentally to "attack the court" as an extension of Western anti-Serbian politics. But, he said, his client also would seek to "destroy the prosecution's substantive arguments and witnesses."
"He is a very clever man, and a very patient man," said Mr. Ognjanovic. "His object and our tactics are to prove he is not guilty."

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