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Milosevic Will Be Buried in Serbia, Attorney Says

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The body of Slobodan Milosevic was claimed by his family today. The former Serbian president died on Saturday in The Hague where he had been on trial for war crimes. A hearse took the body to Amsterdam Airport, but it's still not clear where Milosevic will be buried. After earlier reports that it would be in Moscow, a senior official of Serbia's Socialist Party said this evening that the funeral would be in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

Meanwhile, the circumstances of Milosevic's death have sparked widespread speculation and problems for the international tribunal that was hearing his case. Gregory Crouch reports from The Hague.

GREGORY CROUCH reporting:

The war crimes trial of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic lasted more than four years, encompassing 30,000 pages of evidence and nearly 600 witnesses, but today it took only three minutes to close the entire case. Judge Patrick Robinson of the International War Crimes Tribunal was left to sum up.

Judge PATRICK ROBINSON (International War Crimes Tribunal): The chamber has been advised of the death of the accused, Slobodan Milosevic. We express our regret at his passing. We also regret that his untimely death has deprived not only him, but indeed all interested parties, of a judgment in the allegations in the indictment. His death terminates these proceedings.

CROUCH: Milosevic's trial is over, but the conspiracy theories surrounding his death have just started. Preliminary autopsy results indicate he died of heart failure. What caused his heart to stop is the subject of much speculation.

Today Marko Milosevic flew to The Hague to claim his father's remains. He accused the War Crimes Tribunal of murder. At the very least, he said, because they refused his father's recent request to see medical experts in Moscow.

Mr. MARKO MILOSEVIC (Son of Slobodan Milosevic): (Through translator) I'm very much in a hurry. If I don't take him today or tomorrow, they will send him wherever they please. They're obviously in a hurry to get rid of accusations that they have had a hand in this. This is not the issue, however, because directly or indirectly, they have killed him.

CROUCH: Russian doctors accompanying the younger Milosevic to The Hague said the former Serb leader would still be alive today had he been under their care. The Tribunal had offered Milosevic the chance to see Russian doctors in The Hague but he had insisted on treatment in Moscow instead. Russian cardiologist Leo Balkaria (ph).

Dr. LEO BALKARIA (Cardiologist): (Through translator) It is regrettable that they did not heed our numerous requests for additional medical tests. The point is that a person with a number of cardiovascular ailments had not been properly examined and therefore treated. If he had undergone coronary graphics and done surgery, he would have been alive.

CROUCH: Officials at the War Crimes Tribunal here said Dutch authorities are still investigating the circumstances surrounding Milosevic's death. Even as a prisoner at the United Nations Detention Center here, Milosevic was allowed private meetings with his lawyers and advisors. According to press reports, guards had found alcohol and unauthorized medication in his cell. Some of the speculation surrounding how Milosevic died sounds like the plot of a TV crime series. His supporters say he was secretly poisoned.

At least one Dutch toxicologist has a different theory. Milosevic was sabotaging his own health with contraband pills in an effort to get out of prison. A recent blood sample from Milosevic indicates he may have been secretly taking a drug that would neutralize his heart medication. That way he would never get better and might be let out of prison due to poor health.

Professor Peter de Smet of the Dutch Pharmaceutical Association explains.

Dr. PETER DE SMET (Dutch Pharmaceutical Association): One of the effects that rifamycin (ph) has is that it stimulates the enzymes in the liver and these liver enzymes are capable of making other drugs ineffective and drugs which are used concomitantly are less effective or even completely ineffective.

CROUCH: A final toxicology report taken at the time of Milosevic's autopsy is scheduled to be released in the next few days. Although officials at the War Crimes Tribunal hope that report will put an end to speculation, it seems unlikely. Mr. Milosevic, even in death, has proved a divisive figure. No one can agree where he should be buried, much less on what actually killed him.

For NPR News, I'm Gregory Crouch at The Hague. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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