Former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic found dead in his cell

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

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"Milošević was found lifeless on his bed in his cell at the United Nations detention unit"

Former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milošević, 64, has died in the U.N. war crimes tribunal detention center in The Hague, Netherlands. The Serbian Socialist party and UN officials confirmed his death, and Tribunal President Fausto Pocar has ordered an inquiry, which will be done by the Dutch police and the Dutch coroner. A toxicological examination and a full autopsy have also been ordered on Milošević.

A statement said that Milošević "was found lifeless on his bed in his cell at the United Nations detention unit. The guard immediately alerted the detention unit officer in command and the medical officer. The latter confirmed that Slobodan Milošević was dead."

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that Milošević died of natural causes. He had been suffering from chronic heart problems and high blood pressure.

March 3 blood samples from Mr. Milošević showed traces of rifampicin, an antibiotic used to treat serious bacterial infections like tuberculosis and leprosy.

Zdenko Tomanović, his defence lawyer, quoted Mr. Milošević as saying, "I have never taken any antibiotic in five years." Mr. Milošević claimed the day before he died that people with an interest in silencing him were trying to poison him.

An adviser to the chief prosecutor reported "He has a proven track record of taking unprescribed medicine, of messing with his medication," and suggested the complete cause of death may never be known.

The trial against Milošević had been delayed 20 times due to health problems. In 2002 judges ordered a psychiatric review to determine the strain the trial was putting on him. In late February the Tribunal denied his petition for a transfer to a hospital in Russia.

Milošević was on trial and charged with more than 60 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity for the role he played in the Balkan wars, which includes the massacre of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995 and emanating from the Bosnian conflict.

He was extradited to The Hague in 2001, and his trial began in 2002. He refused to be given a lawyer and was defending himself in court, pleading not guilty to all charges against him. He faced life in prison.

Milošević served as president of the Republic of Serbia from 1989 to 1997, and the president of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000.

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