MILOSEVIC GOES INTO EXTRA TIME
After Milosevic managed to ask the first relevant question to the witness five minutes before the end of the session, the judges decided to extend it by 15 minutes, so that the accused could present his argument. Kosta Bulatovic will be tried tomorrow for contempt of court
Slobodan Milosevic in the courtroom
Slobodan Milosevic took almost four hours to ask the first question relevant for the allegations in the Kosovo indictment as he examined Radovan Paponjak, former head of SUP in Pec. Before that, he persisted in asking questions about "terrorist activities of the Albanian separatists" from 1995 onwards, in the face of the judges' warnings that such questions did not contribute to his defense.
Five minutes before the end of the normal working hours, after Judge Bonomy asked prosecutor Nice if there was "anything in Paponjak's testimony to call for a cross-examination", Milosevic touched upon the allegations relating to the events in Pec. The judges then decided to extend the hearing by 15 minutes.
As the hearing continued, Milosevic read out a paragraph in the indictment alleging that on 27 and 28 March 1999 the police and soldiers went from house to house, forcing Kosovo Albanians to walk towards the town centre, where buses and trucks were ready to deport them. The indictment goes on to allege that the soldiers and police were deployed along the streets, directing the civilians towards the centre. Some Albanian houses were burned and fire was opened on several people.
Radovan Paponjak denies there were any troops in the streets of Pec, although he says that in those days "quite a few people in uniform were moving around the town": those were mobilized reservists heading for their assembly points. He confirmed that there was increased police presence, but not along the streets, but at various crossroads, where they "regulated the movement of the people" who were leaving town in fear of NATO air strikes. There was a "big crowd of people" in the centre; he estimates that about 10,000 people gathered there. He did not see anyone force those people to board the buses, but he admits "having seen them leave on the buses and other vehicles." There was sporadic gunfire in the town, but the witness claims the police did not fire on people and that no one was killed in Pec in those days. According to him, the military and the police "never burned houses", but "there were fires" in the town, especially in the outskirts. The firefighters did not put out the fires because they were afraid they would be targeted by the KLA or NATO.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, exhibited by the prosecution, "one of the best organized operations of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo" was carried out in Pec in late March 1999.
A series of relevant questions Milosevic asked in the extra time of the hearing today, did give some material for the prosecutor to cross-examine the former SUP chief in Pec.
Earlier defense witness called by Milosevic, Kosta Bulatovic, will be tried tomorrow on charges of contempt of court. After that, Radovan Paponjak will return to the courtroom.
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