Milosevic denounces U.N. judges; Feb. 12 date set for his trial

Tuesday, October 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ 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.

When May restricted the comments to conditions of his detention, Milosevic requested that cameras be removed from his cell and asked to meet privately with his family. Their visits are monitored by U.N. officials.

``Apparently they are monitoring me so that I should not commit suicide,'' Milosevic said. ``I would never commit suicide. I do not wish to do that to my family and my children.''

Milosevic also claimed that bin Laden visited Albania last year, and that U.S. officials had then requested his help in tracking him down. U.S. and Albanian authorities have denied that bin Laden visited Albania in recent years.

On Monday, Milosevic refused to enter pleas to new charges relating to Croatia and to an expanded Kosovo indictment. He also three rejected court-appointed attorneys.

The court entered pleas of innocent to 32 counts of war crimes in Croatia and one additional charge in Kosovo. He now faces 37 counts of crimes against humanity, grave breeches of the Geneva Conventions and violations of the laws or customs of war.

Milosevic stands accused of responsibility for the deaths of nearly 900 Kosovar Albanians, the deportations of 800,000 people and sexual assault by Yugoslav army troops.

In Croatia, prosecutors say, Yugoslav troops looted, murdered and tortured hundreds of civilians in a campaign of ethnic cleansing aimed at emptying the region of non-Serbs and creating a greater Serb state.