Milosevic took wrong medicine: Expert

Milosevic deliberately took a drug that neutralised the effects of his heart medicine, an expert who examined his blood said.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 16:57 IST

Former Yugoslav president SlobodanMilosevic deliberately took a drug that neutralised the effects of his heart medicine, an expert who examined his blood said on Monday as the UN war crimes court here prepared to release his body.

"I am sure he took the medicine himself because he wanted a one-way ticket to Moscow (for treatment)," Dutch toxicologist Donald Uges told the agency, a day after an official autopsy concluded Milosevic died of a heart attack.

"That is why he took rifampicine," a powerful antibiotic used to treat leprosy or tuberculosis that countered the effects of Milosevic's heart medication, said Uges.

Uges, a toxicologist for the University of Groningenhere, said he examined Milosevic'sblood two weeks ago at the request of the Dutch doctors who wanted to know why his blood pressure was not dropping despite medication.

Sunday's autopsy pinpointed "myocardial infarction" -- heart attack -- as the immediate cause of death, although a tribunal spokeswoman admitted it was too early to rule out poisoning as claimed by his entourage and the ex-president himself in a letter revealed after his death.

The man at the center of the bloody Balkans conflict was found dead in his cell on Saturday after having stood trial since February 2002 on more than 60 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The court had said Sunday that his remains would be handed the next day to his family, but a tribunal spokesman, Christian Chartier, was on Monday unable to say exactly when they would be released, and to whom.

A legal advisor during Milosevic's trial said a medical report given to the late strongman by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) revealed high levels of an antibiotic used for leprosy or tuberculosis in his bloodstream.

In the letter written a day before his death, Milosevic pleaded with the Russian foreign ministry for protection, charging: "They would like to poison me."

Dutch NOS television reported that recent analyses had discovered "foreign substances" in his blood that neutralised the effects of the medication.

Serbian experts who attended the autopsy declared their satisfaction at how it had been conducted by Dutch pathologists.

Critics noted, however, that Milosevic was the fourth inmate to die at the ICTY detention center in Scheveninghen, outside The Hague.

Moscow's liberal daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta said Monday that the tribunal's reputation had been "seriously compromised," warning that "there is now little chance that Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic will be handed over to the tribunal."

Karadzic, the Bosnian Serbs' wartime political leader, and military chief Mladic, who have been indicted by the court on similar war crimes charges, are still at large and thought to enjoy protection in Serbia.

As of Sunday, Milosevic's widow Mirjana Markovic, known as Mira, had not applied for a visa and was not expected in The Hague because she is wanted in Serbia under an international arrest warrant on charges of abuse of power.

She is believed to have been living in Russia along with their son Marko -- who also faces arrest for attempted murder -- since 2003.

The next question is where Milosevic will be laid to rest.

Serbian President Boris Tadic on Sunday ruled out a state funeral, saying such a ceremony would be "completely inappropriate" given Milosevic's role in the bloody Balkans conflicts that claimed at least 200,000 lives.

However, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's government is under pressure from Milosevic's Socialists (SPS), whose support they need, to give him what a fitting send-off.

"I told the ruling majority that they cannot expect the SPS entering the parliament if Slobodan Milosevic is not buried in dignified way in Belgrade," top SPS official Zoran Andjelkovic told the agency.

Markovic told a Serbian newspaper Monday that she had yet to decide where her husband should be buried.

"If it was only up to me to decide it would be Pozarevac," their hometown near Belgrade. But, she said, "I am still the hostage of an Interpol arrest warrant."

Their daughter Marija said she wanted the body returned home to Montenegro, where the family originated and which is federated with Serbia.

Under the words "Dad, I love you," she placed a full-page death notice in a Montenegrin daily newspaper.

The notice in the state-controlled Pobjeda was signed off by "your Marija" -- there were no other words -- and accompanied by a photograph of her father in his youth.

Apart from Serbia the only other possible burial site for the man who died an international pariah appears Russia, according to several media reports.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 16:57 IST