Serb prisoners continue hunger strike in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Apr 19, 2000 -- (AFP) Thirty Serb prisoners pursued a week-long hunger strike Tuesday to protest their detention, a UN police spokesman said.

Thirty-two of 39 Serbs held at the prison in Kosovska Mitrovica, the main town in northern Kosovo, started the protest in part against the recent release of an ethnic Albanian accused of injuring Serbs and French soldiers in grenade attacks.

According to Yugoslavia's official Tanjug news agency, another grievance is the lengthy period, up to 10 months, that they have been detained without trial.

Two prisoners broke their strike Monday, bringing the number of remaining participants to 30, UN spokesman Ivan de Sainte Foy said.

Striking prisoners will be allowed a visit once a week by a representative of the Serb community and a Serbian nurse, he said.

Earlier Tanjug reported that 38 of 43 Serbs held in the Kosovska Mitrovica prison were part of the protest.

The UN spokesman confirmed that the prisoners were in temporary custody but would not specify how long they had been here.

In a letter to the Serbian National Council in Kosovska Mitrovica, the prisoners said they would refuse to eat until their situation was resolved, asking that they either receive a trial or be freed.

They charged that the ethnic Albanian judge chosen by the United Nations was quick to release ethnic Albanians, but kept Serbs in prison.

Sources for the UN mission in Kosovo (MINUK) said temporary custody could last up to one year.

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