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Milosevic's war crimes trial a 4-year marathon

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Slobodan Milosevic was regarded as the chief architect of the carnage unleashed during the breakup of Yugoslavia last decade.

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(CNN) -- Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial in The Hague, Netherlands, had just entered its fifth year when he was found dead Saturday in his cell.

He was the first sitting head of state to be indicted by a U.N. international tribunal and had been detained at the U.N. center near The Hague since June 2001.

Milosevic faced 66 counts for crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, in which tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims were killed or forced to flee.

The long legal proceeding, which began on February 12, 2002, was in its defense phase when he died, and his case was expected to wrap up in months. (See timeline)

The former nationalistic dictator, nicknamed the "Butcher of the Balkans," began his defense in August 2004, six months after the prosecution closed its case. By the end of last month, Milosevic had used more than 80 percent of his allotted time.

The counts include his role in the fighting in the disputed Serbian province of Kosovo and the civil warfare in Bosnia and Croatia after the breakup of Yugoslavia.

That country, a non-Warsaw Pact communist nation composed of six separate republics, raged with ethnic strife as it broke apart during the fall of communism.

One of many Balkan war crimes suspects who have been brought to The Hague, Milosevic was the best-known symbol and the most politically powerful, and authorities had been attempting to prove that he backed or even authorized violence by Serb forces.

He faced charges of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war, and genocide, an explosive charge emanating from the Bosnian conflict, in which tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims were killed or chased from their homes by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica, where about 8,000 males were killed, and Sarajevo, a city terrorized by a Bosnian-Serb-led siege.

Milosevic has pleaded not guilty to all counts and repeatedly said he wasn't responsible for ordering killings and rapes and that he was defending Serbs people against terror.

Prosecutors called 293 witnesses. Among them were former NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark and Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, who recently died.

Many delays came about because of Milosevic's health problems. He suffers from high blood pressure, hypertension and resulting cardiovascular damage, according to medical reports. He also spent a great deal of time attempting to score political points during cross-examination. Judges continually had to tell him to stay on point with his questions.

During his defense, Milosevic called dozens of witnesses to back up his arguments and has comported himself more respectfully than during the prosecution phase, when he was bullying witnesses.

Just last month, his lawyers sought a subpoena to force former U.S. President Bill Clinton to testify at his trial. Milosevic has also asked the court to subpoena as a witness Clark, who directed NATO's bombing of Kosovo in an 11-week campaign led by Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Most of his defense focused on the Kosovo indictments, considered to be the most potent against him, because he was directly in charge of the Serb-led troops during the fighting in Kosovo, a majority Albanian area key to Serbian identity.

Because of his health issues, court-appointed doctors recommended a schedule of three shortened days a week. Just last month, Milosevic requested travel to Russia for medical treatment but was denied.

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