Andrew Osborn








Milosevic and wife reunited in Hague remand centre.

The Guardian, 20th June 2001 17:12

Mira flies in from Belgrade to spend six hours with Slobodan

Andrew Osborn in the Hague

Yugoslavia's imperious former first lady Mirjana Markovic flew into the Netherlands yesterday and spent six hours with her `cute and likable' husband Slobodan Milosevic: their first meeting since he was spirited out of Belgrade three weeks ago.

Looking puffy and tired, the woman known to the citizens of Belgrade as Lady Macbeth was in no mood for small talk and visibly irked by the media attention that her visit had generated.

`She's not in the mood to talk. Mrs Markovic needs her peace,' was all she had instructed her lawyer Dragoslav Ognjanovic to say as the two set off for the UN remand centre where her husband awaits trial on four counts of crimes against humanity.

Surrounded by reporters on her flight from Belgrade, Mr Milosevic's childhood sweetheart looked uncomfortable, managed only a forced smile, and spent much of the time playing with her nails.

Once the most powerful woman in Yugoslavia, she is no longer afforded special treatment, and was forced to queue with other passengers at Belgrade airport.

But with her helmet haircut and gaudy, heavily patterned dress and matching handbag she managed, as usual, to stand out from the crowd.

At Amsterdam she was met on the Tarmac by a black armour-plated BMW provided by the Dutch secret service and spared the indignity of passing through customs.

`Mirjana is suffering badly, but she is committed to fighting for her husband and the truth,' Mr Milosevic's brother Borislav said. `She is a really strong woman.'

Tribunal officials refused to disclose any details of the prison visit, on the grounds that it would be a violation of the Milosevics' privacy, but it is thought that the couple were given a special `intimacy room'.

Although Mrs Markovic, a Belgrade University professor, was accompanied by a lawyer yesterday, it remained unclear whether her husband has gone back on his decision not to appoint a defence lawyer.

Mr Ognjanovic said he had met tribunal staff, and suggested that he might represent Mr Milosevic himself.

But Borislav Milosevic told a Russian radio station that his brother was still refusing to read documents relating to his case and still rejecting lawyers.

Mrs Markovic, who was widely seen as the power behindher husband, was given a visa on compassionate grounds, despite being on an EU list of Milosevic family and associates whose movements are restricted.

She was seen off at Belgrade airport by her daughter-in law, Milica Gajic.

Recently Mrs Markovic joked about her notoriety and said that she was just waiting to be accused of a litany of improbable crimes.

`I'm just waiting to be accused of provoking the conflict in Chechnya, floods in India, the abduction of Aldo Moro or freezing temperatures in Siberia,' she told the magazine Vreme.