Milosevic may have worsened his health through self-medication

Body may be returned to Serbia for a politically charged burial; Milosevic's son urges burying him in Russia.

milosevic 298 88 AP (photo credit: )
milosevic 298 88 AP
(photo credit: )
Slobodan Milosevic took unprescribed antibiotics that may have worsened his health, a Dutch toxicologist said, as plans for the former Yugoslav leader's funeral remained in disarray, conspiracy theories swirled, and his son headed from Russian exile to the Netherlands to retrieve the body of his father. The assessment by Donald Uges - based on blood tests carried out in recent months - raised questions about security at the prison and echoed past accusations by the trial's leading attorney that Milosevic repeatedly ignored medical advice and prescribed himself drugs to undermine his war crimes trial. Two chaotic days after Milosevic was found dead in his prison cell in The Hague, it appeared increasingly probable the body would be returned to Serbia for a politically charged burial that could be a rallying point for nationalists. But his son Marko raised the possibility of a temporary burial in Russia - an apparent effort to get around the standing arrest warrant in Serbia against widow Mirjana Markovic. "Yesteray I requested the Russian government for permission to temporarily bury my father, Slobodan Milosevic, here in Moscow," Marko told reporters at Moscow's airport before boarding a flight for The Hague. "Belgrade authorities don't allow (the burial). They want to prevent this from happening." There was also concern that a funeral in Serbia could ignite nationalist passions and cause turmoil for the pro-democracy authorities who toppled Milosevic in 2000 - after a 13-year reign in which many around the world blamed him for a series of wars that killed hundreds of thousands and left the former Yugoslavia a splintered ruin. Milosevic was arrested in 2001 and put on trial a year later on 66 counts for war crimes and genocide in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo during Yugoslavia's violent breakup in the 1990s. He was the first sitting head of state indicted for war crimes. He 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. A lawyer for Milosevic said Monday it was the family's wish for his body to be returned to Belgrade, and Serb authorities reportedly were considering whether to lift an arrest warrant against his wife to allow her to attend. Despite uncertainty over where the funeral would be held, Milosevic's son, Marko, was granted a visa to enter the Netherlands and claim the body. Milosevic's wife and son are both exiled in Russia. Uges, the Dutch toxicologist, said he discovered traces of rifampicin in Milosevic's system _ a drug that "makes the liver extremely active" and can undermine the effectiveness of other medication. Milosevic, 64, had chronic heart problems and high blood pressure. "First he wasn't taking his medicine. Then he was forced to take it under supervision and his blood pressure still didn't come down," Uges told AP. "So his camp said 'you see, these Dutch doctors don't know how to treat him and he should go to Russia."' Uges suggested it may have been a ploy to be sent to Russia - where his family was living - for treatment. Geoffrey Nice, the leading trial attorney in the Milosevic case, had often accused Milosevic of intentionally ignoring the advice of his doctors. On Sept. 1, 2004, during court hearings, Nice cited four medical reports all supporting assertions that Milosevic was self-medicating - and even lying about his drug intake. "He has been obtaining for his own purposes other drugs, no doubt to help himself," Nice said. "This material makes it overwhelmingly clear that the accused will do whatever is necessary to serve his own purpose ... the court might be quite satisfied he has been manipulating this tribunal." A second report last August by another doctor working at the UN detention unit identified as Dr. Dijkman, said "another drug" had repeatedly been found in Milosevic's blood - a development he characterized as "odd." Milosevic was found dead on Saturday, just hours after writing an accusatory letter alleging that a "heavy drug" had been found in his bloodstream. Zdenko Tomanovic, his family lawyer, said Milosevic had been "seriously concerned" he was being poisoned. The UN war crimes tribunal said Sunday that a heart attack killed Milosevic, according to preliminary findings from Dutch pathologists, who conducted a nearly eight-hour autopsy on the former Yugoslav leader. Tomanovic, said the family wanted Russian pathologists to conduct a second autopsy to determine the cause of death after the Russian Foreign Ministry said it didn't trust the Dutch results. Four Russian doctors were granted weeklong visas to visit the Netherlands. A tribunal spokeswoman said a final autopsy report would be released in coming days.