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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 19:42 GMT
Milosevic is 'fighting fit'
former President Slobodan Milosevic
Mr Milosevic is reported to have been a model prisoner
Legal advisors to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic say he is in good form and geared up to face a tribunal next week, where he could be indicted for genocide.

He once said to me during a visit - they can lock me up, they can convict me, but they can never break my spirit

Dragoslav Ognjanovic
Mr Milosevic has been awaiting his trial at The Hague in a special prison unit, where he has been able to make regular trips to the gym and even enjoy the services of a masseur.

"He is in top form. His morale is good. He is ready to confront everything that awaits him," said lawyer Dragoslav Ognjanovic after visiting Mr Milosevic at the Scheveningen detention centre.

Mr Milosevic will stand trial on Tuesday on charges which include crimes against humanity in Croatia in 1991 and Kosovo in 1999, and genocide in Bosnia during the period from 1992 to 1995.

He has refused to appoint lawyers to defend him in the court, as he says he does not recognise the authority of the UN tribunal.


However, lawyers from Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, France, the United States and Canada have made their way to the detention centre to provide Mr Milosevic with counsel.

He also receives up to 2,000 letters a week, the majority of which offer support and good wishes, said Mr Ognjanovic.

International War Crimes Tribunal, The Hague
He is being held in comfortable conditions
"He is doing very well considering the context and all the dirt that is being published about him and the psychological war being waged against him," he said.

"He once said to me during a visit: 'they can lock me up, they can convict me, but they can never break my spirit and suppress the truth'."

Canadian attorney Christopher Black also denied reports that Mr Milosevic was so depressed he might even take his own life, and insisted the former president was upbeat.

"His morale's always been good and he's never been suicidal in his whole life," said Mr Black, implying that the authorities might have sinister motives for making such suggestions.

Celine CDs

When he is not receiving counsel or reading letters, Mr Milosevic is reported to have passed the time reading novels by Ernest Hemingway and John Updike, as well as listening to the BBC World Service and Celine Dion CDs.

He is free to mix with the other detainees, playing cards with them and helping them to brush up on their English.

Inmates are allowed to wander freely around the unit for 12 hours each day.

They can cook a meal in the shared kitchen, play volleyball in the prison sports hall or browse the library, according to the prison authorities.

The BBC's Alan Little
"From the beginning, Milosevic has turned the court on its head"
See also:

22 Jun 01 | Europe
Q&A: Milosevic's future
18 Apr 01 | Europe
Milosevic's life behind bars
22 Jun 01 | Europe
Serbs shocked by mass graves
28 Jun 01 | Europe
Milosevic's career in pictures
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