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Prosecutor Calls Brit Envoy to Stand

March 4, 2002

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ War crimes prosecutors said Monday they will call Britain’s former envoy to the Balkans to testify in Slobodan Milosevic’s trial. He will be the first Western politician to appear as a witness.

The testimony of Paddy Ashdown is due next week, deputy prosecutor Geoffrey Nice told the court. Lord Ashdown is the former leader of the Liberal Democrat party and represented Britain in the Balkans during the late 1990s.

Milosevic has said he will seek to call his own witnesses from among Western political leaders, including former President Bill Clinton, to testify about NATO actions in the Balkans.

In the trial Monday, the former Yugoslav president cross-examined an ethnic Albanian judge from Kosovo, accusing him of twisting the truth about persecution and expulsion of his people by Serb troops.

``What we are hearing here is an inversion of the truth; that is the red thread going through this testimony,″ Milosevic said.

Hasan Pruthi, 55, a magistrate from Kosovo’s southwestern city of Djakovica, described more than a decade of discrimination at the hands of Serb authorities. A lawyer and a father of three, Pruthi lost his job in 1991 together with 40 other employees at a district civil court.

He was the 12th witness to testify against Milosevic since the opening of the trial last month. Pruthi recounted how Serb forces set fire to the old part of Djakovica in March 1999 and said he had witnessed the burning of his sister’s home.

Milosevic asserted that NATO bombs caused the fires when they hit military barracks in Djakovica and that Serb police fought to protect the residents from Kosovo Liberation Army rebels.

Defending the activities of Kosovo rebel forces, Pruthi said they ``stood by the suffering people, defending them from murderous Serb forces.″

Milosevic has accused the rebels of terrorist attacks.

Pruthi said troops loyal to Milosevic rounded up Djakovica’s ethnic Albanians and expelled them. Their travel documents were confiscated en route to Albania, he said.

``I heard with my own ears as the police yelled in the streets: ‘Go away to your own country, go to Albania, this is not your home.’ It was a sad thing,″ Pruthi said.

Milosevic is on trial on 66 charges of war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia _ where the charges include genocide _ during Yugoslavia’s violent breakup in the 1990s.

The first phase of the trial deals with the 1998-99 conflict in Kosovo, which led to a 78-day NATO bombing campaign. Milosevic could be sentenced to life if convicted of any single count.

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