Defiant Milosevic appears alone and refuses to cooperate
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – Slobodan Milosevic showed his contempt for the U.N. war crimes tribunal from the start – ignoring a judge’s order to rise, declining headphones that would have translated the events into Serbo-Croatian, and refusing to enter a plea.
”That’s your problem,” the former Yugoslav president huffed when a judge asked if he wanted the indictment read aloud in court.
The 12-minute arraignment before the U.N. war crimes tribunal Tuesday became a sparring match between a political tactician and a no-nonsense presiding judge who wasn’t going to let Milosevic turn his courtroom into a soapbox.
Flanked by armed U.N. sentries and dressed in a blue jacket and shiny black shoes, Milosevic shifted in his seat while he waited for the judges.
He ignored the court clerk’s request for all to rise as the black-robed judges and members of the registry filed into court. He stood only after a guard asked him to.
He refused headphones for the simultaneous translation, preferring to listen to the English as presiding Judge Richard May informed him of the court’s rules and procedures. May, 62, is a former British prosecutor who has been a tribunal justice since 1997.
Milosevic squinted into the spectators’ gallery looking for familiar faces. The attorneys who came from Belgrade, but whom he forbade to represent him, were not in the audience.
His wife, Mirjana Markovic, also was not there. She has asked the tribunal for permission to visit him, but was referred to the Dutch embassy in Belgrade. The Foreign Ministry said it had approached the European Union to lift travel restrictions against her in case she submits a visa application, which she had not done by Tuesday.
When May asked him whether he wanted the indictment read aloud in court, Milosevic looked aside and said, ”that’s your problem,” raising a ripple of laughter from the audience.
Across the courtroom, Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte looked on intently, raising her eyebrows when Milosevic refused to enter a guilty or innocent plea.
Instead, Milosevic lashed out at the court in Serbo-Croatian: ”This trial’s aim is to produce false justification for the war crimes of NATO committed in Yugoslavia.”
”Mr. Milosevic, I asked you a question,” May said. ”Do you want to enter your plea today, or are you asking for adjournment to consider the matter further?”
”I have given you my answer,” Milosevic said. ”Furthermore, this so-called tribunal … ” But May cut him off, entering a not guilty plea on Milosevic’s behalf.
As the hearing neared its end, Milosevic tried again.
”As I have said, the aim of this tribunal is to justify the crimes committed in Yugoslavia. That is why this a false tribunal, and illegitimate … ”
The judge glanced over his spectacles with pursed lips and told the former president: ”Mr. Milosevic, this is not the time for speeches.”
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