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Yugoslavia: Court Rules Milosevic Must Stay In Jail

Belgrade, 3 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A judicial board ruled today that former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must stay in jail. The ex-president's lawyer, Toma Fila, said the Belgrade district court rejected Milosevic's appeal of his 30-day detention order that was filed yesterday. The former Yugoslav leader says his arrest on suspicion of corruption was "politically staged." But Milosevic's own lawyer told Reuters he did not expect the court to rule in favor of his client. The former Yugoslav president was taken into custody on Sunday after a 36-hour stand-off.

He faces charges of abuse of office, corruption, and criminal conspiracy, which carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic today said investigators have indications that Milosevic was also involved in serious crimes which carry the death penalty.

He is wanted by the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague for alleged atrocities in Kosovo. The tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, says she is preparing a second indictment against Milosevic over war crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica today said there will be no "automatic extradition" of Milosevic to The Hague.

Kostunica said during a press conference in Belgrade that he is more concerned about his country's economic and social problems than about the possible extradition of Milosevic.

Kostunica said Milosevic bears great responsibility for damage to the country. But he also reiterated his belief that the tribunal is biased in favor of Western powers and is conducting what he called "selective justice" in the Balkans.

Kostunica said the UN war crimes tribunal should indict leaders of other former Yugoslav republics for the wars which followed the breakup of Yugoslavia, as well as NATO leaders for the 1999 bombing of the country.

The New York Times quotes Kostunica in an interview conducted yesterday as saying Yugoslavia should "never" extradite Milosevic.

The United States announced yesterday that Yugoslavia had embraced democracy enough since Milosevic's ouster to qualify for further American economic aid, but says it will withdraw support for a donors' conference in the summer if Belgrade does not cooperate with the UN war crimes tribunal.