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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 March 2006, 13:58 GMT
'He was determined to fight on'
Slobodan Milosevic
Slobodan Milosevic was charged with genocide and war crimes
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has been found dead in The Hague, where he had been on trial accused of war crimes. One of his court-assigned lawyers, Steven Kay QC, spoke to BBC News 24.

I got a message this morning from The Hague to tell me that Mr Milosevic was found dead in his cell.

No one knows yet (the cause of his death). There has obviously got to be an examination. There will be the usual autopsy and there will probably be an inquiry by the judges of the trial chamber to ascertain a full history and an account of his death.

He was in poor health. He had a recognised heart condition - a cardio vascular problem.

In the last six months he'd also developed pains inside his head, which were linked to a problem with his ears. We had applied to have him released for a period of time so that he could receive medical treatment at a hospital in Moscow and we were awaiting a decision from the judges of the appeals chamber in relation to that application.

My assistant spoke to him on Thursday. He used to ring her twice a day. He didn't, unusually, phone yesterday, Friday. And we had a meeting with him the week before last.

Mr Kay said there was absolutely no reason to suspect that Slobodan Milosevic had killed himself.

In fact he said to me a few weeks ago. 'I haven't fought this case for as long as I have with any intention of to do any harm to myself, Mr Kay'. And that is why he wanted medical treatment.

He has a history of suicides in his family - both his parents. But as far as he was concerned and his attitude to me was quite clearly the opposite from that - that he was determined to continue fighting his case.

Mr Kay was asked whether the suicides of other UN war crimes tribunal defendants had any "emotional impact" on Mr Milosevic.

Not at all. The most recent defendant who died, Milan Babic, had in fact been a prosecution witness in the case against us and he was currently giving evidence in another trial in relation to a defendant called Martic, but that had no concern for Mr Milosevic at all. Babic had no connection with him at the detention centre.

The lawyer said his assessment of the cause of Mr Milosevic's death was "his health condition, his poor heart, heart failure".

But he said the question of whether more should have been done to get him treatment was "for others to judge".

We had fought this issue for him since December to try and get him appropriate medical treatment and there had been a long running dispute between him and the medical authorities at the prison. The rights and wrongs of that will be for others to judge. But we have certainly been doing all the best we could for him to try and get him treatment at the Bakulev Institute in Moscow.

We were in the last 10% of the defence case. He had covered the areas concerning Kosovo. We still had a long way to go and he was always hopeful that he would get more time to continue with the defence.

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