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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Milosevic aide pleads 'not guilty'
Former Yugoslav  Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic
Mr Sainovic is alleged to have been part of the top command
Yugoslavia's former Deputy Prime Minister, Nikola Sainovic, has pleaded "not guilty" to five counts of war crimes committed in Kosovo in 1999.

It was Mr Sainovic's first court appearance at the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal in The Hague since he gave himself up on Thursday.

Last week, one of Mr Sainovic's co-accused, Dragoljub Ojdanic, became the first war crimes suspect to surrender to The Hague since Yugoslavia passed a law on co-operation with the tribunal last month.

Mr Sainovic was designated the Yugoslav Government's representative for Kosovo in 1998, and, as such, he is indicted for war crimes both personally and on grounds of command responsibility.

Charge sheet

Mr Sainovic has been indicted on the same charge sheet as four other former Yugoslav officials, including Mr Milosevic and Serbian President Milan Milutinovic.

The charges include deportation of Kosovo Albanians in the period following Nato's bombing of Yugoslavia, forcible transfer of civilians, killing and murder of civilians, violation of the laws and customs of war as well as persecution based on political and religious grounds.

Mr Sainovic replied "not guilty" to each of the charges separately.

Unlike Mr Milosevic, who has refused to appoint a defence council, Mr Sainovic is being defended by a Belgrade lawyer, Toma Fila.

The case is being heard by presiding judge O-Gon Kwon, from South Korea.

Surrender

In a statement broadcast by Belgrade's independent television station Studio B on Thursday morning, Mr Sainovic said his surrender was the "only rational solution" and he would "continue to struggle for the truth".

"This is my duty towards those who have given their lives for the defence of our country," he said.

Mr Sainovic took part in the last-ditch talks at Rambouillet, the breakdown of which, in February 1999, led to the start of Nato's bombing campaign a month later.

A member of the former ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, Mr Sainovic is one of 23 suspects whom the Yugoslav Government has asked to surrender voluntarily in return for guarantees of pre-trial release.

See also:

02 May 02 | Europe
Top Belgrade official surrenders
15 Apr 02 | Europe
Profile: Nikola Sainovic
18 Apr 02 | Europe
Belgrade's shot in the dark
14 Apr 02 | Europe
Top Serb suspect dies
13 Apr 02 | Europe
Hague suspects go to ground
01 Mar 02 | Europe
The race to catch Karadzic
12 Mar 02 | Europe
The Hague looms over the Balkans
Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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