Serbian court freed 13 Kosovo AlbaniansMch 01, 2000
BELGRADE - Thirteen Kosovo Albanians, accused by Belgrade of terrorism, were freed Tuesday by a Serbian court after spending 17 months in jail, a human rights group said.
A court in Pozarevac, hometown of President Slobodan Milosevic, cleared two ethnic Albanians of terrorism charges, the Belgrade-based independent group Humanitarian Law Center said in a statement.
Eleven others, tried in the same case, were sentenced to 17 months in jail, but were released since they had spent the same period in detention, the center said.
The group of 13 would be taken by officials of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) from prison to Kosovo, it added.
Meanwhile, the Beta news agency reported that four ethnic Albanians, accused of belonging to the pro-independence Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), were sentenced to four years imprisonment by a court in the southern Serbian town of Leskovac on Tuesday.
Esad Shehu, 22, Ardjan Kumanova, 26, Arben Bobani 23, and Kastrat Gurkuqi, 33, were also accused of "smuggling weapons from Albania" during the Kosovo war, the agency said.
The KLA has been officially demilitarised since September last year and transformed into a UN-sponsored civilian police unit, the Kosovo Protection Corps.
Belgrade authorities said this month that 180 Kosovars had been tried in Serbia, and that 149 of them had been convicted and 31 acquitted.
According to the Humanitarian Law Center, some 1,300 Kosovo Albanians are still being held in Serbia on terrorism charges. More than 230 have been released since mid-June, when Belgrade transferred roughly 2,050 prisoners from Kosovo as it was forced by NATO air attacks to withdraw its forces from the southern Serbian province, the center said.