Lawyers said that the prosecution’s decision came after Mr. Milosevic’s latest bout with high blood pressure had forced cancellations of the hearings and was further precipitated by the sudden resignation of the leading judge in the case. Prosecutors had planned to hear four more witnesses in the time allotted to them.
Mr. Milosevic will now have three months to prepare his defense in the enormous trial at the United Nations tribunal where he stands accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide during the three wars of the 1990’s that tore up Yugoslavia.
The British judge in charge of the trial, Richard May, has been forced to resign because of a sudden, severe illness. Judge May will be replaced, most likely by another British judge, to be named by Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general.
On Wednesday both prosecutors and judges moved uncommonly swiftly. Only hours after the prosecution said it was closing its case, judges announced that the trial will resume on June 8.
They gave Mr. Milosevic, who is acting as his own defense counsel, 150 days to present his arguments and his witnesses. Lawyers said that amounts to the same time, or slightly more, than the prosecution used.
Although the trial began in February 2002, it has been suspended 65 days because of Mr. Milosevic’s illness, and during court recesses.
In the minute calculations of the court, Mr. Milosevic has held the floor for about 60 percent of the time during the 300 days of hearings, as he cross-examined witnesses and often strayed into political arguments.
A member of Mr. Milosevic’s defense team said that they have not yet decided on their strategy, now that they are faced with having one of the three judges replaced in mid-stream. At this juncture, Mr. Milosevic can go along with the court’s intended continuation of the case or claim a mistrial. He could also appeal for more time to prepare his case.