July 12, 1993 Vreme News Digest Agency No 94

Milosevic : Draskovic

The Game Goes On...

by Ivan Radovanovic

The District Court's Criminal Council turned down the lawyers' complaint and did not annul the pre-trial detention of Vuk and Danica Draskovic

At the same time, but not in such a dramatic fashion, the warnings made by Draskovic's doctors were rejected.

A day before the decisions were announced, the messages being made were very clear. Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj who many believe to be very well informed of events in Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's cabinet, said: "First the sentence, then a pardon or discontinuance of legal proceedings, if Draskovic promises that he won't try to seize power again".

On the other hand, Draskovic rejected any ideas that he might stop the hunger strike ("If you want to tell me to stop the hunger strike, then we have nothing to talk about," he told his wife Danica during their short meeting in hospital). At the same time the team of doctors announced that Draskovic's life was in danger ("It is a matter of hours'" said the statement), and asked the Criminal Council of the District Court to end the pre-trial detention for Vuk and Danica Draskovic, in order to "avoid a fatal outcome (death)". The cards are finally on the table. Perhaps Milosevic does not want Draskovic dead, but then again, while alive and rebellious, he is in Milosevic's way. "He wants to disgrace him, and force him to repent and get him out of the way," said member of the opposition Civic Alliance Nebojsa Popov. Milosevic's intention to go to the end must not be doubted.

On the other hand, Vuk Draskovic also sincerely believes in his mission of liberating Serbia from "tyranny" and intends to fight to the end, be it fatal to him. Capitulation is out of the question for Vuk Draskovic this time. He has been pushed too far, so that he would experience every new step backwards as lasting personal shame.

Vuk's friend of old, former Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic was the first to realize this. Cosic had tears in his eyes after a surprise visit to the Neuro-surgical Clinic. Later he told friends: "He has really decided to die".

At the beginning of the week, before the announcement of the Supreme Court's decision and the order to discontinue legal proceedings, Vuk's lawyers hedged their bets on Vuk's death. Their trump card was the statement by the team of doctors, at the time sufficiently dramatic to act as a warning to the judges of the possible consequences of a negative decision. The Federal Constitution does not foresee detention in jail "for disturbing the public". There was also good news from the Supreme Court to the effect that Vuk's release was practically a fait accompli.

According to some versions, Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the French President was "responsible" for what later followed. Her mission aimed at freeing Vuk overlapped with the Supreme Court's session, resulting in confusion.

It was announced on Monday that the Supreme Court had put off reaching a decision on Vuk's further detention, for the next day. On Tuesday Milosevic received Mme. Mitterrand and said that the "Draskovic case" was in the hands of the judicial organs. When the legal deadline for the detention expired on Tuesday at 2 p.m., Danica Draskovic packed her things and started for the main entrance of the Neuro-surgical Clinic. She turned back only after several policemen drew their automatic weapons.

It was learned that the Supreme Court had reached a decision around 6 p.m. Tuesday. The decision was negative, it had been so on Monday, but the court did not wish to announce it in order not to "disturb the public".

This tragi-comic situation was completed by the fact that during their meeting, Milosevic did not say a word about the Supreme Court's decision to Mme. Mitterrand, even though he is the head of state.

"Milosevic's power results from the fact that he is untouchable, and someone who cannot be influenced", said Aleksandra Jankovic, a psychologist and SPO deputy in the Serbian parliament. The SPO deputies were also on a hunger strike. "That is his famous 'Balkan obstinacy', and one of the reasons why so many people here love him. He could not abandon the image in this case. Those who expected him to behave as a gentleman, should have known that in choosing between chivalry and power, he would always choose power", said Jankovic.

Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) spokesman Ivica Dacic told the nation: "Vuk and Danica have much better medical care than others." This went down well, and deputies who, in solidarity with Vuk were on a hunger strike at Republic Square, received messages from pensioners such as: "What are you complaining about, they are well cared for while the people are suffering".

At the same press conference Vojislav Seselj announced the precise conditions for Vuk's release and forecast the Criminal Council's decision. He also attacked "political pressures", above all by "Mitterrand and Mitsotakis". There is no need to doubt that he was carrying Milosevic's message, loud and clear.

After the initial shock following the Supreme Court's decision, Vuk's defence became optimistic towards the end of the week. "They must let him go", said practically all the lawyers and party members, while on Friday the Belgrade daily "Borba" dared anticipate Vuk and Danica's release on its front page. The key argument held by all optimists, was that Milosevic would not dare risk Vuk's death and with it, a "funeral which could finally create the critical mass of demonstrators".

By discontinuing legal proceedings against Vuk and Danica Draskovic, Milosevic proved once again that he is a past master at playing political games.