THE HAGUE/ZAGREB, April 20 (Hina) - The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has for the first time turned a witness into an accused after it charged Kosta Bulatovic, a defence witness for Slobodan Milosevic, with contempt of the tribunal on Wednesday for refusing to answer questions asked by the prosecutor.
Kosta Bulatovic, 68, a former Kosovo Serb leader, refused to answer questions by Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice because the former Yugoslav president was not present in the courtroom due to his ill health.
Milosevic, 63, did not appear at the hearing owing to his high blood pressure which, according to a medical report, measured 215/130.
The Trial Chamber decided that the trial should continue with the prosecutor cross-examining the the defence witness. But Bulatovic refused to answer questions by the prosecutor despite warnings from the judges that he would be charged with contempt.
After a lengthy break, during which the Trial Chamber formulated the charge, Presiding Judge Patrick Robinson read that Bulatovic was charged because on April 19 and 20, as a defence witness in the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, he "knowingly and wilfully interfered with the administration of justice by contumaciously refusing to answer questions asked by the prosecutor."
Under Rule 77 of the ICTY Rules of Procedure and Evidence, a person found to be in contempt of the tribunal faces a prison term not exceeding seven years, a fine of up to 100,000 euros, or both.
The Trial Chamber immediately assigned counsel to Bulatovic and decided that he must enter a plea already today. However, his plea was delayed until May 5 after counsel Stephane Bourgon requested that the case be assigned to another trial chamber and that Bulatovic be given time to prepare for the trial.