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 Friday, 26 July, 2002, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Milosevic 'acted within law'
Milosevic shakes hands with Markovic in April 2000
Markovic: A loyal Milosevic supporter when in office
Serbia's former secret police chief, Rade Markovic, has told the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was not responsible for any war crimes in Kosovo.

Markovic, a prosecution witness, had earlier told the court the former president had received daily briefings about police and army operations against ethnic Albanians during the Kosovo conflict.

Specifically there was this ban ... that houses in Kosovo must not be set on fire and nothing must be stolen

Rade Markovic

However under cross examination, Markovic - the most significant witness from Mr Milosevic's inner circle to testify - appeared to support his former boss, saying said he had acted in accordance with the law.

He also accused investigators of twisting a statement he made implying a cover-up of war crimes in Kosovo, as well as alleging he had been offered a deal to give false testimony.
Rade Markovic
Rade Markovic is a key witness for the prosecution

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan says Markovic was a loyal Milosevic supporter when he was in office, and has now expressed this loyalty in court under cross-examination.

Mr Milosevic - who faces more than 60 counts of war crimes - genocide and crimes against humanity relating to the wars which broke up the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s has been conducting his own defence.

'Maintaining security'

On the third day of evidence before the court, Markovic confirmed that Mr Milosevic had ordered that no atrocities be carried out against ethnic Albanian civilians.

"Specifically, there was this ban on which you [Mr Milosevic] insisted...that houses in Kosovo must not be set on fire and nothing must be stolen."

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

Markovic - who was brought from a Belgrade jail to testify - confirmed that hundreds of individual soldiers and police who violated international law were prosecuted.

"Our task was to preserve the life and security of civilians in Kosovo, both Serbs and Albanians," he told Mr Milosevic.

He also agreed with the former Yugoslav leader's claim that Albanians had fled Kosovo not because of Serb oppression, but because of Nato bombs.

On Thursday, Markovic gave evidence to back the prosecution's case that Mr Milosevic was the centre of power in Belgrade and held command responsibility, saying he had been the effective boss of state security operations against the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo.

He also said that the then Interior Minister, Vlajko Stojiljkovic, had been "duty-bound to inform Slobodan Milosevic daily on the activities of the Interior Ministry".

Under strain

On Friday, Markovic - who is serving a one year jail sentence for destroying police files - said his statement implying a cover-up of war crimes in Kosovo had been twisted by United Nations investigators.

He also alleged that the Belgrade authorities had offered to drop charges against him if he agreed to testify falsely against Slobodan Milosevic.

He is also being investigated over his alleged involvement in the assassination of Milosevic opponents.

The court adjourns on Friday for a four-week summer recess.

Mr Milosevic - who does not recognise the tribunal - has been advised to appoint a lawyer after doctors said he was under severe strain and at serious risk of a heart attack. Our correspondent says there is a strong possibility that after the recess, Mr Milosevic will no longer be wholly responsible for his own defence.

  The BBC's Robin Denslow
"For many of the survivors, the trial of Slobodan Milosevic has brought an unnverving challenge"
  The BBC's Janet Barrie
"He's denied all existence of war crimes"
  The BBC's Slobodan Topovic
"The relationship between Milosevic and Markovic in the courtroom was friendly"

At The Hague

Still wanted



See also:

26 Jul 02 | Europe
28 Jun 02 | Europe
25 Jul 02 | Europe
12 Feb 02 | Europe
26 Jul 02 | Newsnight
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