Thursday, May 18, 2006

Serbia's Top Political Leadership War Crimes Trial to Start July 10

THE HAGUE, May 18, 2006 (AFP) -

Serbian ex-president Milan Milutinovic and five other former top officials are to stand trial from July 10 over war crimes committed by Serb troops in the 1998-99 Kosovo conflict, court documents made public Thursday showed.

In the dock alongside Milutinovic will be the former Yugoslav deputy prime minister Nikola Sainovic, two former Yugoslav army chiefs of staff -- generals Dragoljub Ojdanic and Nebojsa Pavkovic -- and generals Vladimir Lazarevic and Sreten Lukic.

They are accused of forming a joint criminal enterprise, together with the late Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, aimed at changing Kosovo's ethnic make-up "to ensure continued Serbian control."

According to the indictment, they tried to drive out the province's ethnic Albanian majority through a "systematic campaign of terror and violence" that included murders, deportations and persecutions.

The Serb crackdown on Kosovo left hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians internally displaced.

The accused have all pleaded not guilty to the charges, and are currently all in Serbia on provisional release awaiting the start of their trial.

The UN war crimes court has set June 30 as the deadline for their return to its detention centre in The Hague.

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