(18 Sep 2000) Serbo-Croat/Nat
A Yugoslav court has accused U-S President Bill Clinton and other NATO state leaders of war crimes in a trial which is being regarded as a tactical ploy just days before key elections.
Judge Veroljub Raketic faced a row of 14 empty chairs with plates bearing the names of the accused – U-S president Bill Clinton, U-S Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the leaders of the NATO states.
The courtroom was packed with hundreds of reporters and diplomats from African countries, North Korea and Iran also attended.
Belgrade district attorney Andrija Milutinovic opened the trial in absentia by reading out names of 240 Yugoslav army soldiers, 147 Serbian policemen and 503 civilians killed in NATO airstrikes.
Yugoslavia suffered heavily in the bombing which was launched last year to halt President Slobodan Milosevic’s crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Anti-NATO sentiments still run high in Belgrade.
The trial should serve to fan such feelings ahead of Yugoslavia’s national elections on Sunday.
It’s a move Milosevic supporters hope will translate into votes for the president in the crucial ballot.
But it is unlikely that the trial will have any real impact on the accused leaders.
Monetary damages are being sought and prison terms of up to 20 years are likely to be imposed.
A group of 15 court-appointed attorneys are representing the defence.
Those indicted include U-S Defence Secretary William Cohen, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac as well as NATO’s former Secretary-General Javier Solana.
Last month, Milutinovic accused senior NATO officials and Western leaders of “inciting an aggressive war and committing war crimes against a civilian population.”
The indictment includes charges of attempted murder, the “violation of the territorial integrity” of Yugoslavia and the use of illegal means of warfare.
He added that those charged have been handed their indictments through diplomatic mail.
Yugoslav officials allege that NATO leaders violated international law when ordering the bombing of civilians – an act resulting in numerous deaths and the destruction of homes and property.
(reading names of the accused) “William Clinton, President of the United States, Madeleine Albright, U-S Secretary of State, William Cohen, U-S Defence Secretary, Anthony Blair, U-K Prime Minister, Robin Cook, U-K Foreign Minister, George Robertson, U-K Ministry of Defence, Jacques Chirac, President of France…”
SUPER CAPTION: Judge Veroljub Raketic
(reading names of victims) “Jojic Slobodan, Markovic Dejan, Deredic Alaxandra…”
SUPER CAPTION: District attorney Andrija Milutinovic
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