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Serbian Ex-President Acquitted Of Kosovo War Crimes, Codefendants Convicted

Milutinovic entering the Hague courtroom before the trial began
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -- Former Serbian president Milan Milutinovic has been acquitted by the Hague tribunal of war crimes against Kosovo Albanians in 1999, but his five co-accused were given long jail terms.

Former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, Yugoslav Army General Nebojsa Pavkovic, and Serbian police chief Sreten Lukic were each sentenced to 22 years for crimes against humanity and violation of the laws or customs of war.

Yugoslav Army General Vladimir Lazarevic and Chief of General Staff Dragoljub Ojdanic were found guilty of participating in the deportation and forcible transfer of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

Milutinovic and his five co-accused went on trial on July 2006 charged with the deportation of about 800,000 civilians from Kosovo and the murders of hundreds by Serb forces.

"The trial chamber finds you not guilty of counts one to five of the indictment," Judge Iain Bonomy said in the verdict on the former Serbian president. "The chamber is unconvinced that Milutinovic shared the intent to use criminal intent."

Bonomy ordered Milutinovic released from detention.

Milutinovic, 66, succeeded Slobodan Milosevic as president of Serbia in 1997. Milosevic died of a heart attack in a UN cell in The Hague in March 2006, months before a verdict was expected in his marathon war crimes trial.