Monday, 22 May, 2000Serb terrorism court jails 143
A Serbian court has jailed 143 ethnic Albanians for taking part in attacks against the Belgrade security forces.
The group, all of whom denied the charges, were jailed for terms ranging from seven to 13 years.
Judge Goran Petronijevic said the accused had "committed the criminal act of terrorism" during the Nato air campaign against Serb forces in Kosovo last year.
The group was accused of forming a unit of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the western Kosovo town of Djakovica in April 1999, and of attacking Serb forces.
The trial, which opened on 18 April in the southern Serbian city of Nis, was the biggest of its kind to be held in Yugoslavia.
The judge sentenced
- 49 of the accused to 13 years imprisonment
- 51 to 12 years
- 20 to 10 years
- 11 to nine years
- 10 to seven years
- two juveniles to seven years in juvenile detention.
The prosecution said that the men took part in three attacks against Serb forces in April and May 1999.
An army officer, a soldier and a policeman died in the attacks and five policemen were seriously injured, the court was told.
But human rights lawyers said the defendants were picked up arbitrarily during a sweep of Djakovica by Serb forces.
Serbian security forces took hundreds of Kosovo Albanian prisoners with them when they pulled out of the province last year.
Mr Petronijevic said the court's decision was unanimous.
Paraffin tests had established beyond reasonable doubt that those sentenced had used weapons, he said.
"There might have been shortcomings in the test, but the results must be accepted as valid because they were conducted in wartime conditions. It is impossible to determine your individual guilt, but that is not necessary," he said.
Peki Boksi, the defendants' lawyer, said: "This is a purely political decision, which certainly won't help ease the tension in Kosovo."
"This will make the situation more difficult for us struggling for human rights," he told Reuters. "This will play into the hands of the extremists."
Another lawyer, Oliver Lazarevic, said all the defendants should have been released due to a lack of evidence.
About 900 ethnic Albanians from Ksovo are still in jail in Serbia awaiting trial.
Several thousand Albanians who disappeared during the operations of Serb forces are still missing.