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Slobodan Milosevic’s Trial Resumes

August 26, 2002

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic returned to court in his war crimes trial Monday after a monthlong summer break, seeking to rebuff witness accounts of atrocities in the province of Kosovo.

Muharrem Dashi, a 43-year-old ethnic Albanian teacher, told the U.N. war crimes tribunal that Milosevic’s forces destroyed more than half of the 180 houses in the village of Stagovo. Although he couldn’t see the fighting from his hiding place, Dashi said he saw the bodies of several Muslim victims in the ruins afterward.

Milosevi, who has led his own defense, sought to discredit Dashi, getting him to acknowledge that he had been a ``non-fighting″ member of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which the Serbs considered to be a terrorist organization.

Dashi said he hadn’t had a weapon and denied knowledge of any murders of Serbs by the KLA, which Milosevic has alleged.

``To tell you the truth, it was people who organized themselves,″ Dashi said. ``Some were able to find arms, but the point was not to try to fight the police or army, but to try to survive a massacre.″

Milosevic has refused to appoint a lawyer to assist him since the start of his trial in February. He claims that the tribunal is illegal and biased.

The monthlong summer recess provided a needed rest for Milosevic. Medical experts warned in July that the ousted president, who had taken heart medication for years, was at serious risk of heart failure. Hearings have been delayed several times because of his ailments.

Prosecutors said they will call at least 26 more witnesses in the part of the trial dealing with Kosovo, including several political insiders such as Milosevic’s predecessor as Yugoslav President, Zoran Lilic.

Prosecutors have until Sept. 13 to conclude their case on Kosovo. After a two-week adjournment, hearings will then turn to the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Charges against Milosevic during the wars in 1991-1995 include genocide for the slaughter of thousands of Muslims in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica and 60 other counts of war crimes.

Prosecutors have been negotiating the conditions under which several U.S. officials can testify in the landmark trial, but have not yet agreed to the exact terms.

Among the witnesses they hope to call during the public hearings is Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the Clinton administration’s special envoy to Yugoslavia.

The U.S. government is concerned that issues of national security could be revealed and had indicated they would only allow former government representatives to appear in closed sessions.

Hearings also reopened Monday in several other war crimes trials in The Hague, including the genocide trial of Bosnian Serbs Radoslav Brdjanin and Gen. Momir Talic, accused in the persecution and expulsion of more than 100,000 people in Bosnia.

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