Milosevic power grows after Serbian courts and parliament lean his way

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The Independent Online

A series of court rulings has highlighted the continuing power and influence in Serbia of Slobodan Milosevic, despite his absence from the country while he stands trial for war crimes in The Hague.

A series of court rulings has highlighted the continuing power and influence in Serbia of Slobodan Milosevic, despite his absence from the country while he stands trial for war crimes in The Hague.

In the most recent, the Supreme Courtoverturned the ruling of a lower court that said Mr Milosevic had illegally obtained a house in the expensive Dedinje neighbourhood of Belgrade in March 1999, two days before Nato began its bombing campaign against Serbia.

He paid 2,000 German marks (£700) for the state-owned house and two acres of land. The lower court had decided that the property had to be returned to the state.

On the latest ruling, Vladan Batic, who was justice minister in the first post-Milosevic government of Serbia, said it was "a political decision". He added: "It can have serious implications".

The Supreme Court is to discuss another appeal by Mr Milosevic, who wants to receive a lavish presidential pension. A lower court said previously that such a decision had to await the verdict of the war crimes tribunal. Jail sentences of more than six months negate state pension rights.

The recent events have contributed towards a revival of Milosevic-era values, which were given a boost when the nationalist and conservative government of Vojislav Kostunica came to power last year.

Cases against Mr Milosevic's notorious son Marko, who now lives in exile, have been dropped in his home town of Pozarevac. A sentence for the illegal possession of arms against Marija, Mr Milosevic's daughter who lives in Montenegro, was overruled by a higher court. Mr Milosevic's wife Mira Markovic, who fled to Russia two years ago, was granted a state pension as a former university professor.

The rehabilitation of the Milosevic clan has been evident in the Serbian parliament as well. It has begun a debate on a resolution that should protect the Milosevics from "further persecution". Mr Milosevic's Socialists and ultranationalists from the Serbian Radical Party of another war crimes indictee, Vojislav Seselj, are pushing for a resolution that states "the human rights of the Milosevics are being violated".

Milosevic-era propaganda is openly disseminated in parliament, whose sessions are broadcast live on television. Speakers justify Serbia's role in the wars that led to deaths of more than 250,000 non-Serbs.

Mr Kostunica, the Serbian Prime Minister, has contributed to the atmosphere himself. In a meeting with local media editors, he made a Milosevic-like distinction between "patriotic" media, who work "in the interest of the nation", and those "paid by the West, non-patriotic", who are critical of his work.

Just like in Mr Milosevic's times, the "non-patriotic" were B92 television and radio, the weekly Vreme and the Beta news agency.

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