U.N. Official: Court Knew Milosevic Had Access to Drugs, Alcohol

A top official with Slobodan Milosevic's party said Tuesday that the chances of a Moscow funeral for the late Serb leader were "99 percent," while a U.N. war crimes tribunal official said the court had been told that he had regular access to unprescribed medication and alcohol smuggled into his prison cell.

Milosevic's body left The Hague on Tuesday in a hearse bound for Amsterdam's Schiphol airport after his son, Marko, signed for his remains. A dark green minivan escorted by police transported the body from the Netherlands Forensic Institute in The Hague. A morgue is near the airport.

It was not clear whether Milosevic's remains would be flown to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia-Montenegro where the family has requested to bury him — or to Russia, where his widow, Mirjana Markovic, and Marko Milosevic live.

In Serbia, Ivica Dacic, deputy chief of Milosevic's Socialists, told The Associated Press after long talks with the former leader's family that "a Moscow funeral is a 99 percent certainty." Belgrade's private BK television, meanwhile, reported that Milosevic's widow and children have opted for the Russian capital because they couldn't find an "adequate" location in Belgrade.

Serb authorities were unlikely to grant a Belgrade ceremony with state honors because it could become a rallying point for nationalists and Milosevic loyalists.

Earlier, Marko Milosevic flew to the Netherlands to claim his father's body.

"He got killed. He didn't die. He got killed. There's a murder," he told AP Television News on arriving in Amsterdam for the short drive to The Hague, where his father's body had been kept at the National Forensic Institute since his death was discovered Saturday.

The tribunal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of strict confidentiality rules, told the AP that the unit's prison warden had told the court that he could no longer guarantee Milosevic's health.

The official said prison authorities repeatedly found banned material in his cell, including alcohol and unprescribed drugs.

Warden Timothy McFadden refused interview requests and U.N. tribunal spokeswoman Alexandra Milenov said the court could not comment "because the investigation into Milosevic's death is ongoing."

The tribunal official, who has access to confidential documents on Milosevic's medication use, said two doctors concluded the former Serb leader was intentionally taking drugs that undermined the prescribed medication for his heart ailment.

Milosevic, who was defending himself against 66 counts of war crimes, was allowed to work in a private office where he could meet privately with witnesses and legal advisers, making it impossible to monitor material they may have smuggled in to him, the official said.

A Dutch toxicologist, Donald Uges, said Monday that blood tests he conducted on samples taken from Milosevic earlier this year uncovered traces of a drug used to treat leprosy or tuberculosis that would neutralize the effects of the beta-blockers he was taking to control his blood pressure.

The official said other doctors had found similar results in their tests.

U.N. prosecutors complained as early as 2004 that Milosevic was defying his regime of prescribed medication and taking other drugs to manipulate his health to his advantage during court proceedings. The trial was repeatedly interrupted at critical points because of the defendant's ill health.

Four Russian medical experts traveled Tuesday to the Netherlands to examine the results, saying they distrusted the findings and the care Milosevic received from U.N. authorities.

Milosevic, the Serbian strongman who presided over four Balkan wars and the breakup of Yugoslavia that cost some 250,000 lives, died of a heart attack, according to preliminary autopsy findings.

The results of a toxicological examination during the autopsy were due to be released in the coming days, said tribunal spokeswoman Alexandra Milenov.

In Courtroom 1 at the tribunal building, meanwhile, the case against Milosevic was declared closed Tuesday.

Judge Patrick Robinson, who repeatedly clashed with the combative defendant over four years, said Milosevic's "untimely passing ... terminates these proceedings." A formal order closing the file would be issued shortly, he said.

The two-minute hearing brought an abrupt end to the most important war crimes trial in 60 years, in a case that was meant to establish political responsibility for the worst crimes known to man — genocide.

In Belgrade, court suspended an arrest warrant for Slobodan Milosevic's widow, leading to a possible funeral there.

The court said Mirjana Markovic "will remain free and will not be taken into custody" after her lawyers deposited a bond worth $17,000 guaranteeing she would appear in court at a hearing that has not yet been scheduled.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told the Beta news agency that the suspension of the arrest warrant enables Milosevic's funeral to be held in Belgrade.

"A funeral is a civilized act that should be respected," Kostunica said, but he did not elaborate on whether it actually would be held in the Serb capital.

Markovic left Serbia in February 2003 to join Marko Milosevic in Russia, and an Interpol arrest warrant was issued against her the same month over a real estate scandal. It was briefly revoked and later reinstated after she failed to appear in court in September 2005.

But, the court said, "on her arrival in the country, the defendant's passport will be impounded."

Markovic has said she would return to Serbia only if the arrest warrant was lifted.

But she has also indicated in recent interviews with Belgrade media that she had plans to return to Russia after the burial. The impounding of her passport would prevent her from leaving Serbia.

On Monday, Marko Milosevic raised the possibility of a temporary burial in Russia if the Serb government banned a Belgrade funeral.

Milosevic was the sixth war crimes suspect from the Balkans to die at The Hague. A week earlier, convicted former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, a star prosecution witness against Milosevic, killed himself in the same prison.