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Milosevic Denies Covering Up Massacre

Tribunal: He says smugglers killed ethnic Albanians whose bodies were found in Danube.

July 24, 2002|From Times Wire Services

THE HAGUE — Slobodan Milosevic denied Tuesday that he ordered a cover-up of war crimes, saying that ethnic Albanians whose bodies were packed into a freezer truck and dumped in the Danube River were victims of human traffickers, not Serbian army troops.

In dramatic testimony, a U.N. war crimes tribunal heard from two Serbian policemen. The dumping incident could be crucial to the prosecution's case that Milosevic orchestrated atrocities in the Serbian province of Kosovo and then tried to cover them up.

On April 6, 1999, Serbian policeman Bosko Radojkovic and a scuba diver were sent to investigate what looked like a large white box floating in the Danube. Radojkovic told the court that the box was a white Mercedes freezer truck with Kosovo license plates, and markings of the Export Slaughterhouse from the Kosovo town of Prizren.

When they pulled the truck from the water, they saw a leg dangling from a partially open cargo door, and found 86 corpses inside, including those of two children, Radojkovic testified. Most bore signs of being stabbed or bludgeoned, he said. Some of the women's bodies were dressed in the traditional dress of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.

"Only one young man had a gunshot chest wound, and his hands were tied with wire," said the policeman, speaking in dry, unemotional tones. The rest had "wounds inflicted with sharp objects or blunt instruments," he said.

Working at night, police moved the decomposing bodies into a flatbed truck, Radojkovic said, which then headed toward central Serbia, the main republic of Yugoslavia. The truck was burned to its frame, then blown up, he said.

Dragan Karleusa, a Serbian police captain, said it appeared that the bodies were reburied at a police training base near the Serbian capital, but the identification of those bodies is not yet conclusive.

Milosevic contested the scenario described by the prosecution, arguing that the people who died in the truck were victims of human traffickers. He cited official reports that smuggling people to Western Europe was rampant in that region.

"We are talking here about an organized criminal group. People had drowned when the lorry toppled and ended up in the river," he said, cross-examining the prosecution witnesses.

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