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Milosevic fighting 'illegal' extradition.

Byline: Beti Bilandzic

Slobodan Milosevic's lawyer yesterday filed a challenge with Yugoslavia's Constitutional Court claiming a government extradition decree against the former Yugoslav president is unconstitutional.

Toma Fila, head of Milosevic's ten-member defence team, is demanding the constitutional court block implementation of the decree until it decides whether the measure was illegal.

The constitutional court judges will convene a council which has to decide whether the challenge has any legal basis or not, court officials said.

The United Nations war crimes court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, wants to try Milosevic for alleged war crimes committed in Kosovo during the 1998/9 war.

The United States and Britain and their allies have hailed the Yugoslav government decision to clear legal obstacles for the extradition of Milosevic and more then one dozen other war crimes suspects sought by The Hague court.

Yugoslavia risks losing billions of pounds in foreign money if its fails to cooperate with The Hague court. Efforts at improving ties with the UN tribunal have intensified ahead of a donors conference scheduled for Friday in Brussels, Belgium.

Some Serbian officials have suggested the appeals process could delay any extradition for more than two weeks. If extradited, Milosevic would be the first former head of state to face a war crimes trial in front of the UN court, established in 1992.

The decree was passed by the Yugoslav government Saturday, and took effect the following day. It was not immediately clear how soon any legal procedure for Milosevic's extradition will start.

Fila later described the decree as'legal piracy'.

He said Milosevic read the decree and also said it was illegal because nearly half of the ministers in the Yugoslav Cabinet were absent when it was agreed on.

The decree is the work of federal government ministers from Serbia, the larger of the two Yugoslav republics. Ministers from the sister republic, Montenegro, oppose the extradition of Yugoslav citizens but are outnumbered in the Cabinet.

The Montenegrin ministers offered to resign their Cabinet posts - a move that may ultimately lead to a government collapse and call for new federal elections.

The decree permits the governments of Serbia or Montenegro to object to a particular extradition case, although the final authority rests with the federal Justice Ministry.

Milosevic has been in Belgrade's Central Prison since April 1 pending an investigation into allegations of corruption.

and abuse of power during his tenure, and investigations have recently widened to encompass allegations he covered up Kosovo atrocities.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 26, 2001
Words:416
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