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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 13:34 GMT
Milosevic blasts Nato's 'lies'
Slobodan Milosevic as he defends himself at the war crimes tribunal
Milosevic ridiculed the prosecution case
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has hit back at his accusers, saying Nato justified its 1999 conflict with Yugoslavia with an "ocean of lies".

During a robust defence at his war crimes trial in The Hague, he showed gruesome photographs of civilians killed by Nato bombs, and screened footage which alleged that reports of Serb massacres of Kosovo Albanians were fabricated.

The whole world knows that this is a political trial

Slobodan Milosevic
Mr Milosevic said all he had done during the Kosovo conflict had been to fight terrorism in his own country - just as the US had done "on the other side of the world".

Mr Milosevic tried to portrary the proceedings as a trial of the whole of Serbia and all those Serbs who supported him and support him to this day.

"The whole world knows this is a political trial," he told the court, saying he was pitted against an enormous apparatus and a vast media structure, with only a public telephone in prison to conduct his defence.

Click here for extracts of Milosevic defence

"You want me to swim a 100-metre race with my legs and hands tied," he said this his first formal defence speech, which has continued for more than four hours.

Mr Milosevic was responding to the prosecution case against him, presented during the first two days of the trial.

He is expected to continue his opening statement on Friday.

'Greater Serbia'

The former Yugoslav leader is accused of orchestrating a systematic campaign of mass murders, deportations and rapes as part of a plan to create an ethnically pure Serb state out of the ruins of former Yugoslavia.

He is the first former head of state to be indicted before an international tribunal, where he is charged with genocide in Bosnia and other crimes against humanity in Croatia and Kosovo.

Milosevic charges
  • Genocide
  • Crimes against humanity
  • Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions
  • Violations of the laws or customs of war

    Click here for a full list of charges

  • Mr Milosevic began his defence by submitting a German television report casting doubt about the 1999 massacre of about 45 ethnic Albanians by Serbs in the Kosovan village of Racak.

    The bodies were placed there to implicate the Serbs, the report suggested, and to justify Western intervention.

    Mr Milosevic also showed footage of Serbs huddled in bunkers during Nato's bombing of Belgrade.

    These videos, Mr Milosevic said, were "just an atom, even smaller than an atom of truth in the ocean of lies".

    Mirroring the prosecution, which had presented photographs of alleged massacres, Mr Milosevic also showed a series of graphic, close-up images of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo killed during a Nato bombing raid.

    They were targeted deliberately, he said, because they were not fleeing as Western propaganda would have it, but returning home.

    Mr Milosevic has rejected the legal foundation of the UN tribunal. He has also refused to appoint lawyers to defend him before the UN tribunal, in what is being described as the most important war crimes trial since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.

    Prosecution's case

    During Wednesday's arguments, prosecutors grimly catalogued the accusations against Mr Milosevic.

    Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte
    Prosecutor Del Ponte listens intently to Milosevic's statement
    Prosecutor Dirk Ryneveld accused him of instigating and commanding "mass executions in a systematic process, in which Serb forces went from hamlet to hamlet, village to village, town to town, killing, raping and destroying everything in their path."

    "All this was done to ensure that they (the Serbs) ethnically cleansed the Kosovo Albanians from that province," he said, accusing Mr Milosevic of being the central, controlling figure in a web of murder and oppression.

    The BBC's Justin Webb
    "The accused has a lot more to say"
    Former Nato commander in Bosnia Colonel Bob Stewart
    "20,000 war criminals are at large in the Balkans"
    Milosevic's legal adviser Dragoslav Ognjanovic
    "He is going to name some ex-politicians"
    Dame Pauline Neville-Jones
    "Milosevic is a very clever tactician"
    See also:

    14 Feb 02 | Europe
    Kosovo glee at Milosevic plight
    12 Feb 02 | Europe
    Serbs stop work to watch trial
    11 Feb 02 | Europe
    Milosevic allies still at large
    12 Feb 02 | Europe
    Profile: Carla Del Ponte
    01 Feb 01 | Europe
    UN stands by Milosevic indictment
    15 Apr 99 | Europe
    Fog of war shrouds refugee deaths
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