Trial opens in Serbia of nine Kosovo Albanians accused of terrorism

NIS, Yugoslavia, Feb 8, 2000 -- (AFP) Nine Kosovo Albanians went on trial in Serbia on Monday accused of terrorism, in the latest in a series of trials of suspected former members of the pro-independence Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

The nine are accused of taking part in attacks on police and of monitoring the movements of the Yugoslav army in northern and central Kosovo in late 1998 as members of the KLA guerrilla force.

The KLA, regarded as a terrorist force by Belgrade, was officially demilitarized last September after the United Nations took over the administration of the Serbian province.

One of the nine defendants was not in court Monday, but it was not explained why he had not been brought to the court in the southern Serbian town of Nis from the prison where he is being held in the western town of Sremska Mitrovica.

The hearings will continue on Tuesday.

A total of 1,300 ethnic Albanians are held in Serbian prisons, mostly accused of being KLA members, according to the non-governmental Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade.

More than 170 ethnic Albanians have been convicted in the past three months and sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to 15 years.

The Center said more than 230 other defendants have been released since mid-June, when Belgrade transferred some 2,050 prisoners from Kosovo to Serbian jails when it was forced by NATO air attacks to withdraw its forces from the province.

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