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 Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 20:33 GMT
Kosovan tells trial of murder
Slobodan Milosevic
Milosevic has impressed legal experts
An Kosovo-Albanian farmer has said troops controlled by Slobodan Milosevic burnt down his village and killed his family.

Agim Zeqiri, a Muslim, was the first victim to appear before the war crimes tribunal in The Hague that will decide if the former Yugoslav leader is guilty of genocide.

Mr Milosevic earlier succeeded in getting the court to exclude testimony from a war crimes investigator as it was based on the stories of other people.

I have not seen my family since then, they were all killed

Witness Agim Zeqiri

He also continued acting as his own lawyer, cross-examining the witnesses that did appear before the court.

Mr Zeqiri, 49, said Serb forces burnt down his village of Celina a day after Nato launched air strikes against Yugoslavia in late March 1999.

He fled with his family from the assault on the village of about 7,000 people and took refuge at a nearby stream.

He was later separated from them and was one of just two from a family of 18 to survive, he said.

"I have not seen my family since then. They were all killed," he said, not looking at Mr Milosevic during either his testimony or cross-examination.

Mr Milosevic scribbled notes on a piece of paper but did not look up as the witness described the fate of his village and family on 25 March 1999, when the troops came.


Slobodan Milosevic
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

  • "They surrounded the village entirely at about three o'clock in the afternoon," Mr Zeqiri told the court on the seventh day of the trial.

    He ended up with a gypsy who was shot in front of his eyes.

    "We heard the firing, the shots, and I saw a bullet hit the gypsy. He came up to me... and then they fired again and he fell down in a ditch and then I left."

    During his cross-examination, Mr Milosevic sought to show that the Celina villagers were supporting ethnic Albanian rebels who were fighting for Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

    "So, you helped them [rebels] with food and clothes?" he asked.

    "Yes," Mr Zeqiri answered.

    "How many of them were in your village?" Mr Milosevic asked.

    What sense and meaning do these spots in which the people were killed have to do with the accusations against me

    Slobodan Milosevic

    "There were at least 300. They were not in our village. They just passed through from time to time," the farmer said.

    "So, you assisted a unit of 300 UCK members," Mr Milosevic concluded, referring to the Albanian acronym of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

    Though Kevin Curtis - the second prosecution witness who had gathered more than 1,000 witness statements from crime scenes across Kosovo - was prevented from testifying, the tribunal did hear from Stephen Spargo, the prosecution's intelligence analyst.

    He displayed maps which he said showed the routes taken by some 800,000 ethnic Albanian refugees deported from Kosovo by Serbian forces in 1999.

    Visa denied

    Mr Milosevic stressed that the court would have to prove he ordered the crimes.

    "Otherwise, what sense and meaning do these spots in which the people were killed have to do with the accusations against me?" he asked.

    But the tribunal has set precedents that commanders can be convicted if they knew, or should have known, about crimes by their subordinates and did nothing to prevent them.

    Click here for extracts from Mr Milosevic's defence

    Meanwhile, the Dutch Foreign Ministry confirmed that a visa application by Mr Milosevic's wife had been denied because she had applied too late.

    Mira Markovic
    Mira Markovic: Denied a visa

    Mr Milosevic earlier complained that the refusal was tantamount to physical mistreatment.

    The hearing could last two years, with 350 witnesses set to be called by the UN.

    Mr Milosevic faces charges of genocide in Bosnia, and of crimes against humanity in Kosovo and Croatia but rejects the legality of the court.

    He is the first former head of state to be indicted before an international tribunal.

      WATCH/LISTEN
      ON THIS STORY
      The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan
    "The fourth witness was not at ease as he was grilled"

    At The Hague

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