27 Feb 2009

Former Serbian president acquitted of war crimes

6:07 am on 27 February 2009

Former Serbian president Milan Milutinovic has been acquitted by the Hague tribunal of war crimes against Kosovo Albanians in 1999.

However, 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.

Milan Milutinovic, 66, 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.

Judge Iain Bonomy said the court was "unconvinced that Milutinovic shared the intent to use criminal intent" and ordered the former president released from detention.

Milan Milutinovic succeeded Slobodan Milosevic as president of Serbia in 1997. Slobodan 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