Slobodan Milosevic contests allegations he wanted "greater Serb" nation
Associated Press Writer
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – Slobodan Milosevic on Wednesday attacked prosecutors’ claims that he sought to carve out an ethnically pure “greater Serbia” in the broken Yugoslav federation, and he branded the war crimes indictments against him “a sheer mutilation of justice.”
More than 2 1/2 years after the trial of the former Yugoslav president began at the U.N. tribunal, Milosevic wound up his opening statement that began Tuesday. He laid out a series of complex alleged conspiracies against his Serb people involving the Kosovo Liberation Army, Osama bin Laden, the Vatican, Croatian neo-Nazis and the CIA, among others.
Milosevic called his trial “a farce, pure and simple.” Charging that prosecutors had failed to prove any of the allegations, he called the indictments a “sheer mutilation of justice.”
“This indictment represents a sum of unscrupulous manipulation, lies, crippling of the law, and an unjust presentation of the history,” he said.
The court said it will announce Thursday whether it will impose defense counsel on Milosevic. He has refused to yield his right to defend himself despite repeated bouts of ill health that have delayed the trial by many months.
“I really cannot accept at all that you do not give me the right, the opportunity to voice the truth,” Milosevic said. He asked the judges for a new medical examination by independent doctors.
Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte suggested Milosevic ask one of his Belgrade attorneys helping him prepare his case behind the scenes to represent him in the courtroom.
The prosecutors also cited medical reports that Milosevic had refused to take prescribed medication for his chronic high blood pressure, prompting U.N.-appointed doctors to say he was unfit to represent himself. Milosevic said the drugs made him too drowsy to work, and he was taking other medicine prescribed by his own doctor.
In his statement, Milosevic contested prosecution allegations that he fanned Serbian nationalism and instigated a decade of Balkan wars.
He said prosecutors, lacking evidence of specific crimes, manufactured “the unique concept of a joint criminal enterprise,” the term in the indictments referring to an alleged conspiracy to drive out Muslims, Croats and other non-Serbs from areas designed for an expanded Serb state.
“In two years, you have not presented a shred of evidence” to support the charges, Milosevic told the court.
He described his own role as striving for peace while protecting the Serbs. “Our greatest wish was to establish peace,” he said. Inside Serbia “during all of those 10 years, there was no discrimination against anyone,” Milosevic said.
Milosevic accused the Western powers in NATO of intervening in Kosovo in 1999, during a Serbian crackdown on the Kosovo Albanian population, to profit from the region’s natural resources of cobalt, lead, nickel and its power plants.
He accused the former Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic of planning to wipe out the Serbs and create an Islamic state in Europe with the assistance of Middle Eastern fundamentalists.
“What they (U.N. prosecutors) fail to say is that the activities of the Serbian people were activities aimed at defense,” Milosevic said.
Milosevic, who was extradited to U.N. authorities in The Hague by Serbia in June 2001, faces 66 counts of war crimes allegedly committed in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s. He could be jailed for life if convicted on any charge.
Prosecutors accuse Milosevic of orchestrating or condoning murder, the destruction of towns and places of worship and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of people in an effort to create an ethnically pure “greater Serbia” by funding and arming Serbian uprisings in Croatia and Bosnia.
“We did assist the Serbs, of course we did. We would have been the scum of the earth if we had not helped them when their lives were in peril,” he said.
Milosevic had been due to open his defense following the conclusion of the prosecution’s case in February. But it was postponed five times as doctors warned that stress was raising his blood pressure to dangerous levels.