Milosevic health problems force UN court to postpone his trial yet again

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The Independent Online

The trial of Slobodan Milosevic was thrown into disarray yesterday as the health problems of the former Yugoslav president forced judges to postpone his hearing until after the summer break.

The trial of Slobodan Milosevic was thrown into disarray yesterday as the health problems of the former Yugoslav president forced judges to postpone his hearing until after the summer break.

The latest in a series of delays to the trial, which had been due to resume on Monday, makes it highly likely that a defence lawyer will be imposed on Mr Milosevic if his medical condition fails to improve.

The former Yugoslav president had been due to open his defence against 66 counts of war crimes, including genocide. For the third time since June, doctors concluded that the strain would exacerbate his high blood pressure, and adjourned the hearing to 31 August. The prosecution case, which began in 2002, ended in February.

Mr Milosevic, who is representing himself in court, has been preparing his defence case despite his illness. He hopes to call 1,400 witnesses, including world leaders such as the former US president, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair.

The court said after receiving a medical bulletin yesterday that the 62-year-old defendant "should not attend the hearing set for Monday".

So persistent are Mr Milosevic's health problems that, earlier this month, judges ordered a review of the case and said they would consider imposing a defence counsel to appear when the former Yugoslav president was unwell. In a statement, they concluded that there was no evidence Mr Milosevic is too ill to stand trial, though they raised doubts as to whether he was able to mount his own defence.

The option of imposing a defence lawyer remains problematic, however, since Mr Milosevic has already said that he would refuse to co-operate .

The latest delay gives the trial chamber additional time to in which to secure a report from a neutral cardiologist who will examine Mr Milosevic during the summer break.

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