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1st Yugoslav War Crimes Trial Opens

June 12, 2002

PROKUPLJE, Yugoslavia — A former Yugoslav soldier went on trial Tuesday on charges of killing two ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, in the first war crimes case to be tried in a Yugoslav court.

Ivan Nikolic, 30, is charged with gunning down the two civilians in the village of Peduh in May 1999.

The district court in Prokuplje, a Serbian town near Kosovo province, charged Nikolic with murder last year. This year, his indictment was changed to "war crimes against the civilian population."

The current authorities, who ousted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, are eager to start war crimes trials in domestic courts.

They hope to ease international pressure on them to extradite suspects to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The new authorities have reluctantly handed over several Serbian suspects to the U.N. tribunal, including Milosevic.

Associated Press

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