BBC World | Europe  Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 13:28 GMT

Milosevic wins key court victory

PHOTO: Milosevic has impressed legal experts

   The former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, has succeeded in
getting a key prosecution witness's testimony excluded from his trial
for war crimes at The Hague.

   The judges ruled that the witness's planned summary of alleged ethnic
cleansing in Kosovo should be excluded because it was based on
second-hand evidence and its substance should have been included in the
opening statements.

   A BBC correspondent at the trial says the decision will be seen as
another advantage for Mr Milosevic after his confident cross-examination
of the first prosecution witness on Tuesday.

   Mr Milosevic earlier complained to the international war crimes
tribunal that his wife has been denied a visa to visit him at the
detention centre where he is being held.

Evidence disallowed

   Kevin Curtis - the second prosecution witness and one of the tribunal
investigators - had gathered more than 1,000 witness statements from
crime scenes across Kosovo.

   But Judge Richard May said his testimony would be unacceptable as it
was based on the evidence of others.

   Mr Milosevic mocked the prosecution for preparing so many

   "You will probably get down to the prosecutor's driver or a
hairdresser," Mr Milosevic said before Judge May cut him short with "Mr
Milosevic, we are with you. We are going to exclude it."

   But Stephen Spargo, the prosecution's intelligence analyst, was
allowed to present his testimony.  He displayed maps which he said
showed the routes taken by some 800,000 ethnic Albanian refugees
deported from Kosovo by Serbian forces in 1999.

   Mr Milosevic stressed that the court would have to prove he ordered
the crimes. "Otherwise, what sense and meaning do these spots in which
the people were killed have to do with the accusations against me?," he

   But the tribunal has set precedents that commanders can be convicted
on the strength that they knew, or should have known, about crimes by
their subordinates and did nothing to prevent them.

Visa denial

   Meanwhile, the Dutch Foreign Ministry confirmed that a visa
application by Milosevic's wife had been denied because she had applied
too late.

   Ministry spokesman Frank de Bruin told AP that it was impossible to
arrange for the necessary security in time.

    Mr Milosevic earlier complained to the court that the refusal was
tantamount to physical mistreatment by the Dutch authorities as it left
him completely isolated during his trial, and asked the tribunal to

   "I consider this part of my physical mistreatment," the 60-year-old
Mr Milosevic said.

Lively exchanges

   On Tuesday, Mr Milosevic began the cross-examination of prosecution
witnesses with a frequently confrontational debate with Mahmut Bakalli
- former Communist leader of the Yugoslav province of Kosovo - over the
truth of his testimony.

   Mr Bakalli, now a member of the new Kosovo parliament, said a Serbian
security officer told him in 1997 that Mr Milosevic already had a
"scorched earth" plan for Kosovo, which allegedly included the levelling
of 700 ethnic Albanian settlements.

   Mr Milosevic frequently questioned Mr Bakalli's allegations and
launched into detailed questioning of Mr Bakalli's role when he was
Kosovo leader as well of his alleged links to the Kosovo Liberation Army
- the armed group that began fighting for an independent Kosovo in the
late 1990s.

   Mr Bakalli countered that he had only had contacts of a political or
diplomatic nature.

   Up to 350 witnesses called by the UN to give evidence.  He took the
stand after Mr Milosevic concluded his three-day opening address.

   Mr Milosevic faces charges of genocide in Bosnia, and of crimes
against humanity in Kosovo and Croatia.

   He rejects the legality of the court and has refused to appoint
lawyers to defend him in what is being described as the most important
war crimes trial since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

   He is the first former head of state to be indicted before an
international tribunal.


Associated Press
February 20, 2002

Milosevic Wins Praise As Trial Lawyer

Anthony Deutsch
Associated Press Writer

   THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Feb. 20 (AP) -- Slobodan Milosevic has won
praise from critics in his debut performance as a trial lawyer,
conducting a tough but focused cross-examination of the first witness at
his war crimes trial.

   Both Milosevic and his opponent, a Kosovo Albanian politician, drew
blood Tuesday in a fierce four-hour courtroom confrontation that ranged
from politics to personal attacks.

   It was the former Yugoslav president's first sparring match with a
prosecution witness since his war crimes trial opened at the U.N.
tribunal on Feb. 12. In the coming year, he will have the opportunity to
cross-examine up to 350 prosecution witnesses and to call his own.

   Milosevic graduated from a Belgrade law school in 1964, but went into
politics without ever practicing law.  He is defending himself against
66 counts of war crimes, including genocide charges, and faces a maximum
life sentence if convicted on any count.

   What he lacked in experience he made up in vigor as he opened an
unrelenting attack on the first prosecution witness, Mahmut Bakalli, a
former head of the Communist Party in Kosovo.

   He displayed an extensive knowledge of prewar Albanian politics,
including details that showed insight into the Kosovar government's

   "He was very well-prepared and did an excellent job. But, it will be
difficult for him to claim later that he didn't know" about crimes in
the Balkans, said Heikelina Verrijn Stuart, a legal analyst. "He showed
that he was or is in a position to gather lots of information, and in
the long run, that may work against him."

   To win a conviction, prosecutors need only to prove that Milosevic
knew crimes were being committed and failed to prevent them or punish
those responsible.

   Citing 20-year-old newspaper reports, Milosevic worked through a pile
of handwritten questions, jotting notes as he went along. His
questioning was sometimes terse and focused on fact, at others personal
and aggressive.

   "Why do you keep making grimaces, as if you don't understand the
translation, when you studied in Belgrade like me and understand very
well what I am saying?" Milosevic asked irritably.

   Judge Richard May often told the witness he didn't need to respond
and asked Milosevic to relate his questions to the issues raised by
prosecutors rather than stray to allegations about Albanian terrorists.

   Milosevic asked Bakalli what he knew about the arms smuggling
activities of the National Liberation Army, but May switched off the
microphone before he could reply.

   "Mr. Milosevic, I'd like for you to explain the relevance of today's
events to the indictment of 1999," May said.

   "It can be relevant because, as I have maintained here over the last
few days, that it is a protracted crime that we are dealing with."

   May allowed him to continue.

   "He knows the facts," said Tom Moran, an attorney defending another
war crimes suspect. "Remember, all he's got to establish is a reasonable
doubt. He can chip away at these witnesses to show they are biased or
prejudiced against him."

   Milosevic's Belgrade-based lawyer Toma Fila said the former Yugoslav
president had successfully cast doubt over Bakalli's testimony.

   "Bakalli came ill-prepared and used incorrect facts in his
testimony," Fila told Belgrade's B-92 television.  Milosevic "blasted to
shreds his testimony, knocked him out completely."

   However, Fila called Milosevic's tactics in the courtroom as he
cross-examined his first witness an "improvisation," which "is not good
in the long run," and said the ousted leader should hire a team of
lawyers to defend him.

   "Milosevic will not be able to collect all the material evidence for
his case, something his lawyers could do for him," Fila said.

                                   Serbian News Network - SNN

                                        [EMAIL PROTECTED]


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