One of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s top clergymen said he was forbidden to testify in Slobodan Milosevic’s defence at the Hague Tribunal.
Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic said the Church, led at the time by a Patriarch who was critical of Milosevic, refused to let him give evidence at the Serbian strongman leader’s war crimes trial in the 2000s.
“I need to confess something today,” said Radovic after the funeral of Milosevic’s brother Borislav on Saturday.
“Slobodan [Milosevic] called me from The Hague to testify in his defence. I apologised to him because I couldn’t fulfil his wish, despite my heart telling me otherwise,” he said.
Nikola Knezevic, an analyst at the Centre for Studies of Religion, Politics and Society in Novi Sad, said that such statements coming from such a high-ranking cleric were worrying.
“It is regretful that Metropolitan Amfilohije speaks about Milosevic with praise and appreciation,” Knezevic said.
“We are all aware of the impact that the nationalistic politics of Slobodan Milosevic had on Serbia and the region,” he added.
Knezevic said that the cleric’s words could be interpreted by some as official church backing for nationalist ideas.
“The past war was not religious, but religion had a strong impact on its development. The Metropolitan has the right to his own opinion but he should be careful because his words are considered to be official messages from the church,” he said.
The cleric is known for its controversial statements and has been criticised by rights groups for condemning homosexuality as “scarier than uranium” and prosecuted in Montenegro during a row over the restoration of a chapel.
Milosevic died of a heart attack in his prison cell in The Hague in March 2006 before the end of his trial.