AMSTERDAM, July 9 (Reuters) - Four months after the death of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, his closest ally, Milan Milutinovic, and five others also accused of war crimes in Kosovo in 1999 will stand trial at the U.N. tribunal on Monday.
Milutinovic, 63, and his co-accused are charged with the persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the forcible deportation of about 800,000 civilians and the murder of hundreds of civilians by Serb forces.
Milutinovic succeeded Milosevic, who died at the U.N. jail on March 11, as president of Serbia in 1997.
He and former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, former army chief and defence minister Dragoljub Ojdanic and army commander Vladimir Lazarevic returned from provisional release to The Hague last week.
The four are indicted with army commander Nebojsa Pavkovic and security chief Sreten Lukic, also released on bail, as well as former chief of public security Vlastimir Dordevic, who is still at large.
Prosecutors allege Milutinovic had at least formal control over the Serb forces who killed hundreds of ethnic Albanians and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Milutinovic pleaded not guilty to crimes against humanity including murder, deportation and persecution, and one charge of war crimes. He argued that he had little real power as Serbian president.
SERBIA'S SMILING FACE
Milutinovic was Milosevic's closest ally and representative during the crucial negotiations on Kosovo in early 1999 which ended in an impasse and resulted in the 78-day NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
At the time, he conveyed Serbia's tough stand with a smiling face, often shown on TV cracking jokes with journalists who followed him in droves when he took walks through the small French town of Rambouillet during breaks in the talks.
But Milutinovic was believed to be just a mouthpiece of Milosevic, at the time president of rump Yugoslavia.Serbs used a popular saying to describe him, as "a man who doesn't interfere, not even in his job".
Milutinovic stayed in his largely ceremonial post after reformers ousted Milosevic in 2000, protected by presidential immunity. He kept a low profile and stayed out his term until December 2002, then gave himself up to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has come under some criticism after the death of Milosevic, whose trial dragged on for four years.
Critics say the court should try to simplify and speed up proceedings by focusing on limited crimes.
The court, which is due to close all proceedings by 2010, has begun moving some mid- and low-ranking cases to national courts so it can focus on major suspects. (Additional reporting by Beti Bilandzic in Belgrade)