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Milosevic on suicide watch

Milosevic and guards
Milosevic, centre, is under 24-hour surveillance at The Hague  


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Slobodan Milosevic is on constant suicide watch in his prision cell in The Hague, it has been revealed.

As he spent a third day in an isolation unit preparing his defence for his first appearence in court, scheduled for Tuesday, the former Yugoslav president was under round-the-clock observation to ensure he is not taken ill or attempts to take his own life -- as both his parents did.

His death in custody, whatever the cause, would all too easily be declared murder by angry Serb nationalists, elevating him to a martyrdom that would hardly ease efforts to bring lasting stability to the ethnically divided Balkans.

"We're very focused on getting him to trial. That's why his well-being is uppermost in our minds," said Jim Landale, spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal.

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"If there is any suggestion any of the accused is going to do himself harm then the appropriate measures would be put in place. You can safely assume he would be watched even more closely."

He added that a psychiatrist and expert medical care are on hand constantly for emergencies.

One Serb suspect -- Slavko Dokmanovic, former Serb mayor of the Croatian town of Vukovar -- has already hanged himself at The Hague and a second -- Bosnian Serb Milan Kovacevic -- died of a heart attack in his cell.

Milsoevic, 59, is said to have suffered bouts of depression and he was treated for high blood pressure after his arrest in April.

Chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who is expected to have a first confrontation with Milosevic on Tuesday, has asked that he be kept apart from the other 38 detainees for 30 days.

A medical examination after his arrival at the prison in the early hours of Friday found he was in fair health.

But talk of depression, blood pressure and his experiences of family suicides will hardly reassure his UN jailers.

His estranged father, Svetozar, a defrocked Orthodox priest, shot himself in 1962. When his mother, Stanislava, a staunch communist activist, hanged herself from a light fitting in her living room in 1974 it was Milosevic himself found her body.

An uncle who was a general also committed suicide.

As Milosevic languishes in his cell, tension in Belgrade remains tense since his handover.

Milosevic was presented on Friday with an expanded war crimes indictment adding new charges after his dramatic extradition to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands.

He is accused of murder, deportation and prosecution of people on political, racial and ethnic grounds during his tenure as Yugoslav president and Serbian leader.

Milosevic has said he was "kidnapped" when taken from Belgrade's Central Prison on Thursday, his lawyer Branimir Gugl said.

To add to the tension, the resignation of prime minister Zoran Zizic in protest at the Serbian government's decision to hand Milosevic over to the tribunal has threatened the government's collapse.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica faces finding a new Yugoslav prime minister by the end of next week or dissolve the parliament and call for new elections.

Kostunica -- who has described the handover as "illegal and unconstitutional" -- is withdrawing his deputies from the pro-reform coalition in both the Serbian and federal parliaments.

His party is also now demanding a cabinet reshuffle at both the federal and Serbian levels, meaning the DOS coalition that ousted Milosevic from power may be falling apart in the coming days, Vinci said.

On Saturday, Belgrade's gay community felt the force of the anger and tension building up in some sections since Milosevic's handover.

Gangs of youths attacked a gay march in Belgrade
Gangs of youths attacked a gay march in Belgrade  

Roving bands of young men attacked activists staging what was believed to be the first gay rights march in Yugoslavia's capital.

Dozens of people were reportedly injured, including a half dozen police officers deployed to the capital's main square.

One of the attackers told B-92 radio that "we are here to prevent immorality in Serbia," while others shouted, "Serbia is not a gay country."

Later the hooligans smashed the front door window of the offices of a moderate political party supporting gay rights.





RELATED STORIES:
RELATED SITES:
• International Criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
• Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
• World Bank Group: Yugoslavia
• European Union
• International Monetary Fund

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