Kosovar Albanians demonstrate to free prisoners in Serbia

PRISTINA, Jan 24, 2000 -- (AFP) Some 2,000 Kosovo Albanians demonstrated in silence in the center of the provincial capital Monday to demand the release of hundreds of their compatriots held in Serbian jails.

Holding banners saying "The prisoners in Serb jails are between life and death" and "Act now or it will be too late," the protestors gathered in the snow outside the theatre in Pristina'a central Mother Teresa street.

They also carried large photos of relatives held in Serbian jails, estimated by the International Committee of the Red Cross at around 2,000.

Serbian forces transported many prisoners to Serbia proper when they were driven out of Kosovo by NATO last June.

Others such as politician Ukshin Hoti, whose picture dominated the protest, were imprisoned by Serbian authorities after Belgrade scrapped Kosovo's autonomy in 1989.

Kosovo's western administrators have said the healing process in the Yugoslav province, riven with ethnic hatred, cannot be completed without the return of all ethnic Albanian prisoners.

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