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Serbo Journal

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Serb court clears way for return of Milosevic widow

An official with Slobodan Milosevic’s party said today that an arrest warrant for Milosevic’s wife had been suspended, leading to a possible Belgrade funeral for the former Yugoslav president.

The ranking official said Belgrade’s District Court acted on a proposal by the state prosecutor when it suspended the warrant for Mirjana Markovic.

The court has confirmed the arrest warrant has been suspended.

Markovic, considered the power behind the scenes during Milosevic’s autocratic rule in the 1990s, has said she would return to Serbia only if the arrest warrant, filed by the court because of her alleged abuse of power during Milosevic’s reign, was lifted.

Three days after Milosevic was found dead in his prison cell near the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, it appeared increasingly probable that his body would be returned to Serbia for a politically charged funeral that could be a rallying point for nationalists.

But Milosevic’s son, Marko, who was in The Hague to claim the body, raised the possibility of a temporary burial in Russia.

Marko, who lives in Russia with Markovic, told reporters at Moscow’s airport before boarding a flight for The Hague that “Belgrade authorities don’t allow (the burial). They want to prevent this from happening.”

There were fears that a massive funeral in Serbia could be used by nationalists to launch an attempt to climb back to power more than five years after Milosevic was toppled in a massive pro-democracy revolt.

Many around the world blame Milosevic’s 13-year reign for a series of wars that killed hundreds of thousands and left the former Yugoslavia a splintered ruin.

Milosevic was extradited in June 2001 to the UN tribunal in The Hague on war crimes and genocide charges for his role in the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo during Yugoslavia’s violent break-up in the 1990s. He was the first sitting head of state indicted for war crimes.

Milosevic’s Socialists have pressed hard for a funeral in the capital, and have threatened to topple Serbia’s minority government if Milosevic is denied a funeral in Serbia and his wife is not allowed to mourn him at home.

In apparent negotiations with Serbia’s conservative-led government, the Socialists appeared to have dropped their demands that Milosevic be buried with state honours at the “Ally of the Heroes”, a Belgrade graveyard reserved for prominent Serbs.

“We are demanding that the authorities create conditions for Slobodan Milosevic to be buried in a dignified manner in Belgrade, that persecution against his family be stopped, and to allow them to regularly visit his grave,” said Socialist Party official Misa Petronijevic.

Markovic, known here as “the Red Witch” because of her Marxist and hardline policies, is also accused of having had links to several murders of Milosevic’s political opponents in the 1990s.

She was never formally charged, but accusations emerged in several trials that she instigated the killings.

Markovic fled to Russia several days after the March 2003 assassination of Zoran Djindjic, Serbia’s first democratic prime minister and Milosevic’s life-long arch-rival.

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