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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February 2004, 17:13 GMT
Case against Milosevic cut short
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
Mr Milosevic has been ill for the last two weeks
Prosecutors in Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial have decided to rest their case early, because of the illnesses of the defendant and the presiding judge.

Prosecutors at The Hague tribunal were due to call their last witnesses in two final days of hearings this month.

But they have filed a motion with the panel of United Nations judges to end their case immediately.

Mr Milosevic has been ill for two weeks and Judge Richard May is due to resign in three months for health reasons.

Tribunal judges accepted the prosecution's motion and now the court is expected to adjourn for three months to allow the former Yugoslav president to prepare his defence.

Fresh problems

Mr Milosevic's heart problems, high blood pressure and bouts of fatigue have repeatedly delayed the trial since it started in February 2002.

Prosecutors filed for an early resting of their case "due to all these elements, not only the absence of the accused," said prosecution spokeswoman Florence Hartmann.

Judge Richard May
Mr May will resign in three months due to illness
On Sunday, the court announced that Mr May would resign on 31 May, but did not disclose the nature of his illness.

The move is expected to cause further delays in the lengthy trial, as a new judge will have to absorb more than two years of detailed evidence, much of it contested by Mr Milosevic.

The trial is currently predicted to last until at least 2005.

The tribunal says the judge's resignation will not have an "unduly disruptive effect", but Mr Milosevic will have the right to challenge Mr May's replacement, and some legal experts said he could seek a retrial.

Charges

Mr Milosevic faces charges relating to atrocities carried out in Kosovo in 1999, to crimes against humanity committed in Croatia between 1991 and 1992, and to alleged genocide in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995.

The indictment relating to Bosnia - the most serious - accuses him of being responsible for the killing of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats.

Mr Milosevic has repeatedly refused to enter a plea, and has attempted to denounce the legitimacy of the court.

The court has recorded a not guilty plea to all the charges on his behalf.




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