Serbian court jails alleged Kosovo guerrillas

BELGRADE, Feb 15, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Serbian court on Monday sentenced five ethnic Albanians to up to four years in prison for being Kosovo guerrillas and conspiring against the country, the independent Beta news agency reported.

Beta said eight other Kosovo Albanians were sentenced by the same court in the southern town of Leskovac last week to up to 15 years in prison, and a ninth to two years on Monday in the same case.

The trials were among several cases brought against Kosovo Albanians for their alleged role in fighting Serb rule in the southern province.

Many of them were arrested by Serb forces during NATO's March-to-June 1999 bombing campaign and transferred to other parts of Serbia. Kosovo is now under international control after Yugoslav security forces withdrew in June.

In Monday's court rulings, Beta said Driton Berisha was sentenced to four years, Ljuz Marku to three, Hadzija Redzep to two and Isuf Hadzijaj to 17 months in jail.

They were charged with being members of the Kosovo Liberation Army and of carrying firearms and digging trenches outside their village in the southern Serbian province. The report did not say when they had been arrested.

The agency did not name another ethnic Albanian man who it said was sentenced to two years in a separate trial earlier on Monday in which the court freed four Kosovo Albanians all aged under 18.

The Belgrade Humanitarian Law Fund said in a statement quoted by Beta that the five were part of a group of 13 ethnic Albanians tried in Leskovac last week, of whom eight received sentences of up to 15 years. That group was charged with "conspiring to commit subversive activities related with terrorism".

Beta said the Yugoslav army arrested the 13 men in April 1999 in the Moslem-dominated town of Plav in Montenegro, Serbia's only remaining partner republic in the Yugoslav federation.

The Belgrade office of the International Committee of the Red Cross has said there are still some 1,600 Kosovo Albanian prisoners in Serb jails.

The ICRC has helped transfer some 400 back to Kosovo in cooperation with Serb authorities after they were released.

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