Monday, September 11, 2006

Milosevic supporters mark six-month anniversary of his death

POZAREVAC, Serbia, Sept 11, 2006 (AFP) -

More than 500 people gathered on Monday at the family estate of the late Serbian president and war crimes suspect Slobodan Milosevic to mark the six-month anniversary of his death.

The gathering was organised to mark the traditional six-month mourning period according to the Orthodox Christian religion.

Delegations from Milosevic's Socialist party mingled with ordinary people to enter the grounds of the large family villa in the eastern Serbian town of Pozarevac, 70 kilometres (42 miles) from the capital Belgrade, from early morning.

Mostly elderly, the mourners laid flowers at the grave, passing in a procession around it under a linden tree outside the now-vacant villa.

Mira Markovic, Milosevic's widow, and their son Marko, who live in self-imposed exile in Russia, did not attend. Nor did their daughter, Marija, who lives in neighbouring Montenegro.

Only their daughter-in-law Milica Gajic and grandson Marko were present at the villa.

Milosevic, 64, died suddenly on March 11, a few months before the expected end of his mammoth war crimes trial in The Hague over his role in the bloody conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo that tore apart the Balkans in the 1990s.

The former president was indicted on more than 60 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He faced separate genocide charges over the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the war in Bosnia and in particular the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.

Milosevic was ousted in a popular uprising in October 2000 after more than a decade at the helm of Serbia and the former Yugoslav Federation. He was handed over to the Hague-based UN war crimes tribunal in June 2001.

Concurrently with the ceremony at Milosevic's villa, the late leader's opponents organised a symbolic action in Pozarevac, renaming one of the streets in the town as "Milosevic's victims boulevard."

No incidents were reported between the two groups.

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