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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
Milosevic rejects Danube bodies blame
Dragan Karleusa giving evidence
Captain Dragan Karleusa led bodies inquiry
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has told the UN war crimes tribunal that a lorry-load of bodies found in the River Danube were the victims of human trafficking.

Prosecutor says the 86 bodies were the result of Serb war crimes, committed against ethnic Albanian villagers in Kosovo.

Mr Milosevic, who faces a total of 68 charges of war crimes, said the bodies were used to manipulate public opinion against him.

He told his trial in The Hague that people-smugglers were responsible for the deaths.

"We are talking here about an organised criminal group," he told the tribunal.

"People had drowned when the lorry toppled and ended up in the river."

Identity search

His comments came as he cross-examined Serb police captain Dragan Karleusa, who was giving evidence about the discovery of the bodies.

Prosecutors say the bodies were driven hundreds of miles from the locations where they were killed in Kosovo.

After being dumped in the river they were secretly removed in 1999 to be reburied, in what prosecutors say was an attempt to cover up a war crime.

They were "rediscovered" in April 2001 in a police training camp outside Belgrade.

Mr Karleusa, who was in charge of a Serb inquiry into the affair, said there was no evidence to back up Mr Milosevic's people-smuggling claim, although he said the full details of the victims had not been established.

"We are still trying to determine who they are, who killed them and where," he said.

"The elements that could be acceptable as proof have not been found."

Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic: Political motive to bodies' discovery
Documents found on some of the bodies were issued in Kosovo under Albanian names, he added.

Mr Milosevic told the court that the discovery of the bodies had been "invented to create a climate" for his extradition from Belgrade.

"Did you in May 2001 publicly mention the bodies... for political reasons to prepare the public for my illegal and criminal transfer to The Hague," Mr Milosevic asked Mr Karleusa during his cross-examination.

Mr Karleusa insisted that there had been no political motive.

He has told the court that senior officials including Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic and security chief Rade Markovic had ordered the reburying of the bodies.

Mr Markovic was extradited to The Hague last week to be called as a prosecution witness.


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14 Jun 01 | Europe
04 Jun 01 | Europe
15 Jul 01 | Europe
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