Milosevic denounces U.N. judges; Feb. 12 trial set

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Slobodan Milosevic, the ousted Yugoslav president charged with Balkan atrocities, dismissed U.N. war crimes judges Tuesday as agents of NATO and called for removal of his "biased" prosecutors.

A tentative trial date of Feb. 12 was set at a hearing in which Milosevic again challenging the legitimacy of the court and the war crimes charges.

Milosevic, who was extradited by Yugoslavia last June, declared he wasn't suicidal and claimed that U.S. officials last year sought his help in tracking down alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

His trial could be delayed if the court agrees to a prosecution request to combine the Kosovo indictment with another for alleged crimes in Croatia. Prosecutors also plan to indict Milosevic next week for war crimes in Bosnia, including the most serious charge, genocide.

Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said she expected to call hundreds of witnesses and present thousands of documents to prove Milosevic oversaw widespread murder and plunder in the wars that resulted from the breakup of Yugoslavia.

The Swiss prosecutor estimated she would need 170 days to present the Kosovo case and about the same amount of time to present the Croatia case.

Allowed an opportunity to speak, Milosevic asked British presiding judge Richard May to "disqualify the prosecutor" for bias, alleging she was a tool of NATO.

"We are not talking only about partiality or bias because those would be mild terms. What we heard is worse than what we could hear from the enemy, that is from the NATO spokesman," Milosevic said in Serbian.

He accused the court of ignoring "falsehoods" from the prosecutor and said that by reading "judgments," the court showed it was "part of that machinery."

"Don't bother me and make me listen for hours on end to the reading of texts written at the intellectual level of a 7-year-old child -- rather, I correct myself -- a retarded 7-year-old child," Milosevic said.

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