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Milosevic Hits Back at Prosecution

BY Admin  February 14, 2002 at 5:00 PM EDT

In a defiant speech lasting almost four hours, Milosevic accused the U.S. and its European allies of planning the destruction of Yugoslavia and bringing about his downfall.

Milosevic, who has chosen to defend himself without an attorney, also accused the West of “a bid for global domination”, saying NATO used “an ocean of lies” to justify its 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. He railed against the military campaign, launched in response to a Serb crackdown in Kosovo against the majority Albanian ethnic group.

The former leader branded the NATO an “instrument of U.S. foreign policy,” saying that he was being “humiliated, isolated, and silenced” for defending Serbia against Western aggression.

“Our defense was a heroic defense against the aggression of the NATO pact,” he told the court.

Milosevic, 60, also drew parallels between the U.S. war on terrorism and his own attempt to counter the NATO bombing campaign.

“America crosses the globe to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, but to fight terrorism in the heart of your own country is considered to be a crime,” he said.

To counter footage and photographs previously shown by the prosecution, Milosevic showed gruesome photographs of refugees killed in a NATO bombing that took place on April 14, 1999.

NATO said the strike, which Yugoslav officials said killed 75 people, was a mistake caused by the misidentification of a refugee convoy.

Milosevic, who rejects the legality of the International War Crimes Tribunal, accused the court of conducting a politicized trial that has little to do with law.

“The whole world knows this is a political trial,” he said, adding that he had little means with which to conduct his defense.

“The prosecution has a huge legal and media machine on its side. What do I have on my side? I only have a public telephone in my prison. That is all I have to fight a terrible libel against my country, my people and myself,” he told the court.

The ousted Yugoslav leader is accused of masterminding a systematic campaign of mass murders, deportations and rapes to create an “ethnically pure” Serb state out of the ruins of former Yugoslavia. He has been charged with genocide in the 1992-95 Bosnian war and with crimes against humanity in Croatia in 1991-92, as well as in Kosovo in 1999.

Milosevic is the first former head of state to face trial before an international tribunal. The case is widely considered the most important war crimes trial since Nazi leaders faced a court in Nuremberg at the end of World War II.

He could face life in prison if convicted at the end of his trial, which is expected to last at least two years.