Monday, June 12, 2006

UN tribunal rules out delay in Ojdanic war crimes trial

THE HAGUE, June 12, 2006 (AFP) -

The UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Monday ruled out delaying the trial of former Yugoslav army chief Dragoljub Ojdanic after an attack against his lawyers, the court said.

The trial, in which Ojdanic is charged jointly with five other suspects including former Serbian president Milan Milutinovic, would begin in July, the court said.

Ojdanic's defence team demanded that his trial be delayed after an attack on his lawyers in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo, where the defendants' crimes were allegedly committed.

The lawyers, accompanied by members of the United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), were attacked by villagers in a southern town on May 25. Rocks were thrown at the convoy and three police and some 30 villagers were injured.

Following the attack the defence team had to leave Kosovo and was advised by UNMIK that the visit could not be resumed.

Ojdanic's lawyers said the former general's right to a fair trial had been violated as the defence could not investigate the allegations under the circumstances in Kosovo.

All the defendants 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 in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

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