THE HAGUE, June 2, 2006 (AFP) -
Lawyers for former Yugoslav army general Dragoljub Ojdani have demanded that his war crimes trial, slated to begin this month, be delayed after an attack on the defence team in Kosovo, court documents made public Friday showed.
The lawyers accompanied by members of the United Nations force in Kosovo (UNMIK) were attacked by villagers in the southern town of Mala Krusha on May 25. Rocks were thrown at the convoy and in the ensuing scuffle three police officers and some 30 villagers were injured.
Following the attack the defence team had to leave Kosovo and was later advised by UNMIK that the visit could not be resumed.
General Ojdanic's lawyers are asking for the delay because they argue that his right to a fair trial has been violated as the defence cannot investigate his case in Kosovo.
"Under the circumstances, General Ojdanic's counsel cannot render effective assistance to him at trial because they cannot observe the scene of the crimes and access witnesses to the events which are the subject of the indictment," the defence submission said.
Ojdanic, former army chief of staff, was set to go on trial on June 10 along with five other high-ranking Serb officials, including former Serbian president Milan Milutinovic, for offences committed during the Serb crackdown in Kosovo in the late 1990s.
All were close to ex-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who died in March while on trial in The Hague at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
They are alleged to have waged a systematic campaign of terror and violence against the majority ethnic Albanian population of the Serbian province.
Hundreds of thousands of Albanians were forced out of Kosovo or killed in a campaign by Belgrade which was halted when NATO forces intervened in 1999.
It is not clear when the judges assigned to Ojdanic's case will rule on the request for a trial delay.