AFP (with additional material by AP). 30 January 2002. Milosevic, requesting release, says he will not miss court "battle"; Milosevic appeal hearing adjourned, no decision taken.
THE HAGUE -- Yugoslavia's former president Slobodan Milosevic on Wednesday asked the UN war crimes court to temporarily release him, saying he would gladly return to The Hague to wage "battle" to prove his innocence. "It would be logical and just to let me go. I will not flee," Milosevic told presiding judge Claude Jorda. "I am fully prepared to come to any hearing because this is not a battle I will miss," he argued during a 30-minute diatribe. "I want to be freed. I want you to set me free," he told the court, promising to return to face the accusations. Often waving and pointing his finger at the prosecutors and judges, Milosevic spoke for nearly the full 30 minutes allocated to the defense during a hearing on whether the three indictments against him should be joined in one trial. During five earlier appearances before a three-judge trial court, Milosevic was silenced every time he sought to give a statement. Judge Richard May repeatedly turned off his microphone when the defendant refused to be quiet, saying the pretrial hearings were not the place for political speeches. But Judge Claude Jorda, heading Wednesday's five-man appellate panel, ruled that Milosevic should be allowed to speak, prompting him to comment that "this is the first time I've not been interrupted." Milosevic, whose first trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 12, did not address the motion, but used the opportunity to give his view of the decade of turmoil in the former Yugoslavia. He called the long list of charges against him "abnormal and nonsensical," and said his goal was to protect Serbs and bring peace as soon as possible to the troubled republics of Yugoslavia. "I would call this an evil and hostile attack aimed at justifying the crimes committed against my country," he said of the indictments against him. Putting him on trial was "an attempt to turn the victim into the culprit." The court is hearing an appeal by the prosecution, which is challenging a decision to hold two separate Milosevic trials on charges of war crimes in Kosovo and on genocide and war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia. Jorda asked Milosevic whether he preferred two trials or just one. Milosevic did not answer the question, telling the judge: "By adding up three lies you will not get to the truth, you will enlarge the lie." He then lunged into a diatribe, charging that NATO had committed crimes against Yugoslavia during its 1999 air war and arguing that he had worked to end the war in Bosnia after UN peacekeepers were taken hostage there. "How many of your hostages did we save?" he asked the court. "We saved your pilots, we saved your soldiers," he said. Asked again whether he saw the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia as one event, to be dealt with in one trial, Milosevic refused to give a clear answer. "As far as what I would prefer, I would prefer the truth," he said. "As far as how you deal with procedures, that is up to you. I will give you no suggestions," he added. The judges will hear arguments from the amici curiae, legal advisers to the court, on joining the indictments and give the prosecution a chance to react to those arguments. The UN war crimes tribunal on Wednesday adjourned a hearing of an appeal against a decision to hold two trials of former Yugoslav president Slodoban Milosevic without issuing a ruling. "We will issue a decision as soon as possible," presiding judge Claude Jorda said at the end of the hearing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Barry Stoller http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ProletarianNews