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Former Serb president cleared of Kosovo crimes

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by Kwetunikwetu, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. Kwetunikwetu

    Kwetunikwetu JF-Expert Member

    Feb 26, 2009
    Joined: Dec 23, 2007
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    By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press Writer Mike Corder, Associated Press Writer – 24 mins ago

    THE HAGUE, Netherlands – U.N. judges on Thursday acquitted former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic of ordering a deadly campaign of terror against Kosovo Albanians, and ordered him released from custody.

    However, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal convicted five other senior Serbs and gave them prison sentences of between 15 and 22 years. It was the court's first judgment for Serb crimes in Kosovo.

    Milutinovic's acquittal was a blow to prosecutors who three years ago lost their chance of convicting former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of similar crimes when he died of a heart attack before his trial ended.

    In what was as close to a guilty verdict for Milosevic himself as the court has ever come, presiding judge Iain Bonomy of Scotland said Milosevic was the most powerful commander of Serb troops and military police who carried out a campaign of murder, rape and deportations that forced nearly 800,000 ethnic Albanians to flee Kosovo before NATO airstrikes forced a Serb withdrawal in mid-1999.

    "In practice, it was Milosevic, sometimes termed the 'Supreme Commander' who exercised actual command authority over the (Serb army) during the NATO campaign," Bonomy said.

    The court ruled that as Serbian president Milutinovic had no role in what they ruled was a criminal plot led by Milosevic to drive ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo as a way of retaining Serb control of the province.

    Prosecution spokeswoman Olga Kavran said prosecutors will study the lengthy judgment before deciding whether to appeal.

    The five convicted of involvement in the campaign were: former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, ex-Yugoslav Army Chief of Staff Dragoljub Ojdanic, former army generals Nebojsa Pavkovic and Vladimir Lazarevic and Serbian police Gen. Sreten Lukic.

    Sainovic, Pavkovic and Lukic were found guilty of charges of deportation, forcible transfer, murder and persecution and each given 22-year prison sentences.

    Ojdanic and Lazarevic were convicted of deportation and forcible transfer of civilians but acquitted of murder and persecution. They each got 15 years.