Lawyer says Milosevic to accept help
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CNN) -- One of Slobodan Milosevic's lawyers said Tuesday the former Yugoslav president probably will accept legal counsel in his trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
A defiant Milosevic -- the first head of state to face trial in The Hague -- appeared without legal representation on Tuesday to be formally charged with crimes against humanity, having said he did not recognise the authority of the tribunal.
Not guilty pleas were entered on Milosevic's behalf by the court after he refused to enter one himself.
The comments from lawyer Dragoljub Ognjanovic later on Tuesday flew in the face of Milosevic's statement to the tribunal that it is "an illegal organ" and thus, "I have no need to appoint counsel."
In an interview with CNN, Ognjanovic said, "It is going to be a very long trial and I suppose he is going to take a few lawyers. At this point, we do not know who it is going to be. Domestic lawyers, foreign lawyers -- I don't know."
He said Milosevic insists "this is a political trial" and "his whole defence will be based on that fact."
Graham Blewitt, the deputy chief prosecutor of the tribunal, said prosecutors would prefer to see Milosevic represented by the "most competent legal defence team" because it would ensure that Milosevic was "adequately represented."
That way, said Blewitt, the "verdict -- whatever it is, when it comes -- can be one that the world can have confidence in."
The trial will go forward with or without legal representation for Milosevic. Blewitt said the next step is for prosecutors to hand over to Milosevic or his possible lawyers the "material that went in to support the indictment."
Milosevic is accused of crimes against humanity for actions carried out by the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo before NATO's 1999 air campaign, including murder, deportation and persecution of people on political, racial and ethnic grounds.
Early on Tuesday, at the brief, historic session, a combative Milosevic strode in without legal counsel, declined to enter a plea and waived his right to have the charges formally read in court.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour reported that Milosevic appeared in court with "his jaw jutted forward, he looked defiant, and he kept looking at the public gallery."
The court entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. The entire session lasted 10 minutes and the tribunal then adjourned until August 27 but the trial was not expected to begin hearing evidence until next year.
Richard May, a presiding judge for the war crimes tribunal, asked Milosevic if he wanted to reconsider his decision not to have attorneys with him. He said the former Yugoslav leader would have the opportunity in "due course" to challenge the court's jurisdiction.
"I consider this tribunal a false tribunal and the indictments false indictments," Milosevic responded. "It is illegal, being not appointed by the U.N. General Assembly. So, I have no need to appoint counsel to the illegal organ."
May then told Milosevic he had the right to have the indictment read in court before making a plea to it, or he could waive his right.
"Now do you want to have the indictment read out, or not?" May asked.
In a terse reply, Milosevic said: "That's your problem."
Unruffled, May told Milosevic, "You will be accorded the full rights of the accused according to international law and the full protections of international law and the statute."
May then asked the former Yugoslav leader if he would like to enter a plea.
"This trial's aim is to produce false justification for the war crimes of NATO committed in Yugoslavia," Milosevic said.
Not getting the response he wanted, May said, "Mr. Milosevic, I asked you a question. Do you wish to enter a plea today or are you asking for adjournment to consider the matter further?"
Milosevic replied, "I have given you my answer."
May then entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Milosevic for each count.
Undeterred, Milosevic said: "The aim of this tribunal is to justify the crimes committed in Yugoslavia. That is why this is a false tribunal, an illegitimate one."
Interrupting, May said, "Mr. Milosevic, this is not the time for speeches. As I have said, you will have a full opportunity in due course."
Tribunal spokesman Jim Landale said Milosevic's confrontational demeanour before the tribunal was dealt with "firmly and fairly" by the three presiding judges. He acknowledged it is rare for a suspect to appear at the court without representation.
"This was unusual, although not totally unexpected," Landale said. "I think we knew that there could be the possibility of this sort of occurrence in court."
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