Paris, Wednesday, August 9, 2000YU opens proceedings against foreigners suspected of terrorism
BELGRADE - The army on Tuesday transferred two Britons and two Canadians suspected of terrorism to Belgrade and started legal proceedings that could lead to a trial against them, their lawyer said.
The defense lawyer, Vojislav Zecevic, said authorities legally have six months to complete an investigation, but added that he hoped the decision whether to charge or release the four would be reached within the next three days.
"There is not much to investigate in this case," Mr. Zecevic said. "The only thing to determine is whether the demolition devices and a few fuses found in their car are really explosives that can cause destruction."
"I think those were not serious explosives."
Mr. Zecevic said that the military prosecutor in Podgorica, Colonel Miroslav Samardzic, demanded that the four be charged for possession of arms and explosives, attempted terrorist acts, illegal entry into Yugoslavia and "violent behavior toward military personnel."
"They are already in a Belgrade military court where the proceedings are being conducted," said Mr. Zecevic.
He said that by opening the inquiry, the military judge had obviously ruled "that there is basis for suspicion that they have committed criminal acts."
Colonel Samardzic denied reports that the four had been formally indicted. "I demanded the start of an investigation, and did not raise any charges," he said.
Only the Belgrade military court - after the investigation - can formally charge them, and put them on trial, the colonel said. If found guilty, the four could face up to 15 years in prison.
Mr. Zecevic said his clients seemed healthy when they appeared in court for the first time since they were arrested near the Kosovo border last week on suspicion of possessing explosives for terrorist use. He said all four denied any wrongdoing.
The four men - two British policemen and two Canadians - were arrested in northern Montenegro while driving back to Kosovo. The two Britons, John Yore and Adrian Prangnell, were working as instructors at a police academy in Kosovo. No diplomats have been able to contact them.
In London, Keith Vaz, the British foreign minister, criticized Yugoslav authorities for keeping the men isolated and suggested they should never have been detained. "They were not there on some James Bond mission," he said of the Britons. "They were there on holiday."
Commenting for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a spokesman, Roland Bless, said in Pristina, Kosovo, that Yugoslav authorities appeared to have ignored the fact that the two Britons were "part of the UN mission in Kosovo," and therefore "under the immunity of the UN."
Shaun Going, one of the Canadians arrested along with his nephew Liam Hall, was a contractor doing reconstruction work in Kosovo and friends have said he might have been carrying demolition equipment used to destroy houses wrecked during the Kosovo war.
The Yugoslav Army claimed that the detainees were suspected of training pro-Western forces in Montenegro for "terrorist actions." The four had military equipment and explosives in their possession at the time of arrest, an army statement claimed.