Milosevic son claims body and prepares for funeral in Serbia

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The Independent Online

The body of Slobodan Milosevic was claimed from a Dutch forensic institute by his son, Marko, last night and moved to Amsterdam's airport at the end of a day of drama and recrimination over the death of the former Yugoslav president.

Milosevic's remains were driven in a dark green hearse, escorted by police outriders, to the mortuary at Schipol.

In Belgrade, the Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that Milosevic could be buried in Serbia and a court decision has cleared the way for his widow, Mira Markovic, to attend the funeral. Last night Zdenko Tamonovic, the Milosevic family lawyer, said the body of the former Yusoslav president will be in Belgrade by 3.30pm today - the clearest indication so far that the funeral will be in Serbia.

The statement contradicted earlier suggestions from Marko Milosevic that the former leader would be interred in Moscow because of legal charges in Serbia against family members who expect to attend the funeral.

On a day in which Milosevic's four-year-long trial was formally dismissed in a two-minute hearing, the controversy over the cause of his death refused to go away. On his way to the Netherlands, Marko Milosevic claimed that his father had been murdered in The Hague. "He got killed, he didn't die. He got killed. There is a murder," he said aboard a flight from Moscow.

A post-mortem examination found that 64-year-old Milosevic, who died on Saturday, was the victim of a heart attack, though the results of a toxicological test have yet to be made public. Accompanied by Mr Tomanovic, Marko Milosevic spent two hours at the Dutch forensic institute, on an industrial estate outside The Hague, leaving several hours before the corpse was taken away. A team of Russian forensic experts also visited the building, being shown the results of the autopsy but not carrying out a second post-mortem as had been demanded on Monday.

Leo Bokeria, head of the Bakulev clinic in Moscow, claimed that Milosevic would still be alive had he been given alternative treatment. "It's a great regret that they did not heed our numerous appeals for an examination," he said, adding: "The point is that a man who had suffered from a complex of illnesses of the heart and vascular system was not examined adequately, and thus naturally he could not be cured."

But two unidentified officials told Associated Press news agency that the unit's prison warden had told the tribunal's president and registrar that Milosevic's health could not be guaranteed because he was taking unprescribed drugs to worsen his condition. Alexandra Milenov, spokeswoman for the tribunal, said that, while it was theoretically impossible for drugs to get into the UN detention centre, "things are smuggled into every prison in the world".

A day of drama began at 9am in Court No 1, where officials had spent four years hearing the most important war crimes case in Europe since the Nuremberg trials. Speaking for less than two minutes, the presiding judge, Patrick Robinson, said he regretted that Milosevic's untimely death had deprived not only him but all interested parties, of a judgment. Judge Robinson, who clashed frequently with the defendant, chose a deadpan conclusion to an extraordinary event, telling the court: "His death terminates the proceedings." Before dismissing the court he declared that a written order would be lodged to end the case.

In Belgrade a Serbian court suspended an arrest warrant for Mrs Markovic, who lives in exile in Moscow. She was wanted for abuse of power. The charges have not been dropped and she will have to surrender her passport while in Serbia. Her lawyers deposited a £10,000 bail as a guarantee. These conditions may not be enough to satisfy the Milosevic family.

The authorities insist that any funeral on Serbian soil will be private and there will be no state honours. A one-page death notice for Mr Milosevic appeared in the daily Politika, expressing condolences to the family. It was signed by a group of 34 war crimes indictees at the tribunal. Among them were the ultranationalist Serb leader Vojislav Seselj, and the two most prominent Croats, General Ante Gotovina and Mladen Naletilic Tuta.

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