THE HAGUE, Netherlands – In a first victory for Slobodan Milosevic, the U.N. war crimes tribunal excluded testimony Wednesday from the prosecution's senior investigator, saying it was based on inadmissible hearsay.
But in a personal setback, the former Yugoslav president complained the Dutch government denied his wife a visa for a weekend visit, and asked the three tribunal judges to intervene.
Kevin Curtis, the prosecution's chief war crimes investigator for Kosovo, was due to testify about "the killing sites" where thousands of Kosovo Albanians were allegedly murdered by Serb forces during the 1999 war in the province.
But the judges ruled his testimony would be irrelevant, since he was repeating stories he had heard from others.
Milosevic chided the prosecution for preparing what he said were hundreds more such statements.
"You will probably get down to the prosecutor's driver or a hairdresser," Milosevic said, before presiding judge Richard May cut him short: "Mr. Milosevic, we are with you. We are going to exclude it."
Curtis and Stephen Spargo, the prosecution's intelligence analyst, were summoned as witnesses to outline Milosevic's alleged plan to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of its majority ethnic Albanian population.
Only Spargo testified Wednesday, displaying a series of maps which he said show the routes taken by some 800,000 ethnic Albanian refugees deported from Kosovo by Serbian forces in 1999.
Milosevic, the first former head of state to be charged with war crimes while in office, is accused of crimes against humanity in Kosovo and Croatia, and of genocide in Bosnia during the 1991-99 Balkan wars. He could be sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted on any one of 66 counts.
In another exchange with the prosecution, Milosevic challenged the court's right to convict him for "command responsibility" for crimes committed by his subordinates even if they were not acting under his orders.
"Regarding the crime sites, you are duty bound to clarify -- even in an illegal trial of this nature -- that I was present at the site of the crime and that I committed those crimes, or if those crimes actually did take place," he said.
The tribunal, which already has tried 31 defendants and convicted all but five, has set precedents for convicting commanders on the grounds that they knew about, or had reason to know about, crimes by subordinates but did nothing to prevent them or punish the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, the Dutch Foreign Ministry confirmed that a visa application by Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, had been denied, saying she had applied too late. Milosevic had asked the court to adjourn early this week, anticipating a long weekend with his wife.
"We only received her request last Wednesday," spokesman Frank de Bruin told The Associated Press. "In that short time it was impossible to arrange for her protective measures. When she is in the Netherlands she needs nonstop security."
Milosevic told the court the application had been made "well in advance" and pleaded to the court to "do all you can" to overturn the decision. "I consider this to be part of my physical mistreatment," he said.
Markovic, considered to be the power behind the scene during Milosevic's decade in power, has been granted regular three-day visas since last July, and has visited her husband nearly once a month at the U.N. detention center in The Hague suburb of Scheveningen.
Judge May said the court had "no power in relation to this. We will pass on what you said and voice it with the registry now."
On Tuesday, Milosevic cross-examined the first trial witness, Mahmut Bakalli, an ethnic Albanian politician who claimed the former Yugoslav president coldly destroyed Kosovo and was responsible for thousands of deaths in the province.