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Judge Orders Milosevic Jailed Without Bail at Least 30 Days

Yugoslavia: Police find arms cache, plans for an 'uprising' at ex-president's home, local radio reports.

April 02, 2001|DAVID HOLLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Arrested former President Slobodan Milosevic settled into life in a freshly refurbished wing of this city's Central Prison on Sunday, with an investigative judge ruling that he will be held there at least 30 days without bail.

Milosevic declared himself innocent of the corruption and abuse of power charges lodged against him after his predawn surrender to authorities, his lawyer Toma Fila said after an investigative hearing. His pretrial detention can be extended up to six months by the investigative judge, Fila added. He is charged with diverting more than $100 million in state funds to enrich himself and keep his party in power.

The former president "decided to defend himself and to talk, and he's telling the truth," Fila told reporters. "He was checked by a doctor. His health situation is good, although he is under sedatives and has moderately increased blood pressure."

Milosevic earlier decided to surrender to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, Fila said.

During talks at his residential compound early Sunday, "he said it is out of the question that a single drop of Serb blood be spilled," the attorney said. "He came here by himself and said that he has no intention to leave his own country. This is his country. In this country he will leave his bones."

Milosevic was visited in prison by his wife, Mirjana Markovic, Fila said. Court procedures will resume Tuesday, he said.

Serbian police, meanwhile, found an arms cache at Milosevic's residential compound, which officially is military property, Belgrade's B92 Radio reported Sunday night.

"Two armored personnel carriers of unclear ownership, three submachine guns, one rocket-propelled grenade launcher, 30 rifle grenades, two boxes of hand grenades, two boxes with machine-gun rounds, 10 boxes of 7.62-millimeter ammunition [and] more than 20 pistols of various calibers" were found at the property, the station reported, quoting an unnamed Interior Ministry source.

Police also found plans for an "uprising," the station said.

Milosevic's daughter, Marija Milosevic, 35, who earlier was reported to have fired shots about the time her father was taken away from his Belgrade residence, was found with a 9-millimeter Beretta, a 9-millimeter Walther and a "lady's pistol," the station reported. She did not have licenses for the guns, it said.

Marija Milosevic was not immediately arrested, but Vladan Batic, the justice minister of Serbia, Yugoslavia's dominant republic, told reporters that an investigation would be conducted into the shooting incident.

Batic insisted that despite appearances, the timing of the elder Milosevic's arrest was not linked to a deadline of March 31 set by the U.S. Congress for Yugoslavia to show cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, which has indicted Milosevic and several of his associates for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The action against Milosevic "has no political dimension and is not a form of political revenge," Batic said. "In this case, judicial bodies acted independently without pressures from the government. The prosecutor proposed detention [without bail] for two reasons: to secure the presence of Milosevic and to prevent influence on witnesses."

Milosevic's arrest "has nothing to do with the Hague tribunal, because on the federal level we don't yet have a law that regulates cooperation with the Hague tribunal," Batic said. "So he was apprehended under the charge of abuse of power and financial embezzlement. As for extradition to The Hague of Milosevic or any other person, that can only be talked about after laws are introduced which would regulate that."

However, the idea that the timing of the arrest was unrelated to the U.S. deadline was ridiculed by Kosta Cavoski, a law professor and close associate of current Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica.

The way the arrest was handled "only says that this government is independent of its own citizens and dependent upon the American government, and it should be the other way around," Cavoski said. "Slobodan Milosevic should have been arrested long ago when nobody was demanding that and, in the best case, by now he would probably have already been sentenced. This way, it was allowed that he remain free for a long time and that our government becomes a victim of blackmail."

Also arrested in Sunday's police raid on Milosevic's residence compound were Sunisa Vucinic, a former paramilitary leader and close associate of Milosevic and his wife, authorities said. Vucinic and some of the other armed men around Milosevic will be charged with conspiring to carry out an armed uprising, B92 Radio reported.

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