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Serbo Journal

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Milosevic widow may avoid Serbia charges

Serbia may drop charges against the widow of Slobodan Milosevic, to clear the way for a funeral in the capital for the former Serbian and Yugoslav president, who died under indictment for war crimes in The Hague on Saturday.

Belgrade district court convened on Monday to consider cancelling the arrest warrant against Mirjana Markovic, who has been living in Russia for the past two years to avoid arrest for her alleged abuse of power during Mr Milosevic’s rule. State television said prosecutors at the Belgrade district court were likely to close their file on Ms Markovic.

While government officials have rejected the idea of a state funeral, members of his Socialist party have been negotiating for a compromise ceremony attended by family members, rather than an exile’s funeral in Russia that could stir up nationalist anger at home.

The opposition Radical party, which forms the largest single bloc in Serbia’s parliament, has been keen to exploit the legacy of the man who presided over Yugoslavia’s violent disintegration in the 1990s.

The Socialists help to prop up Serbia’s fragile minority government, which is drawn from the same reform movement that threw Mr Milosevic out of office in October 2000 and sent him to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague the following year.

Questions about how Mr Milosevic died, as well as how to commemorate him, have added to the pressures on the government, as prosecutors from the UN tribunal repeated demands that Serbia arrest and extradite other war crimes indictees.

An autopsy on Sunday, conducted by Dutch doctors in the presence of a Serbian government representative, indicated that Mr Milosevic died of a heart attack, the tribunal announced.

Even if public grieving for him has been minimal, doubts remain over the medical care he received. Many Serbs, including his political opponents, have expressed unease about the manner of his death.

Boris Tadic, Serbia’s president, said the tribunal should have provided a higher standard of care, but this would not hinder Serbia’s co-operation in catching other suspects.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov questioned the validity of the postmortem, conducted by the same tribunal that rejected Mr Milosevic’s requests to go to Russia for treatment.

Mr Milosevic’s son Marko has left Russia for The Hague to collect the former president’s remains, state television reported, although the date and location of the funeral were still undecided.

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