38 Serbs continue hunger strike in Kosovska Mitrovica

BELGRADE, Apr 28, 2000 -- (AFP) Thirty-eight Serbs detained in a UN prison in Kosovska Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, on Thursday continued the hunger strike they began on April 10, according to a Serb source reached by telephone from Belgrade.

The Serbs are protesting about the fact that they have been detained for up to ten months without trial or even indictment. They are demanding either early court hearings or provisional release until they go on trial.

According to the UN police, the majority of the hunger strikers are suspected of war crimes.

Yugoslav government representatives met UN police in Kosovska Mitrovica on Wednesday and submitted two lists of detainees for whom they are seeking a priority liberation, a source close to the Serb National Council of Kosovska Mitrovica told AFP.

The first list contains the names of nine detainees who are "in a critical state" because of their hunger strike, while the second is composed of five detainees for whom there is no valid motive for detention, according to the Yugoslav authorities.

Early release of the Serbs named on the lists, which were being examined Thursday, was "the only way to end the hunger strike", the source said.

A member of the Yugoslav committee for cooperation with the UN mission in Kosovo told AFP he was able to visit the hunger strikers Wednesday in the company of doctors.

"Most of them are in a very difficult state, they are exhausted," Jovica Jovanovic, said.

More than 40 women relatives of the detained Serbs protested Thursday outside the prison.

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