Serbian journalist may face espionage charges

BELGRADE, May 12, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Serbian journalist detained by state security earlier this week might face espionage charges before a military court, Belgrade media reported on Thursday.

Miroslav Filipovic, a local correspondent for the independent Belgrade newspaper Danas and for the French news agency Agence France Presse, was taken from his home in the central town of Kraljevo by plainclothes policemen on Monday.

The officers produced a document saying Filipovic was being detained to prevent him from concealing or destroying evidence in legal proceedings and confiscated his computer hard drive, floppy disks, texts, passport, address book and personal papers.

The Kraljevo District Court on Wednesday ordered a 30-day detention of Filipovic pending investigation but passed the case on to the military court in the southern city of Nis.

Colonel Vukadin Milojevic, president of the Nis Military Court, said Filipovic was transferred to Nis on Thursday, according to the independent news agency Beta.

Milojevic said he had not seen the charge sheet, which was in the military prosecutor's possession, but he had learned from the investigative judge that Filipovic had been charged with espionage, Beta reported.

The charges carry a prison term of three to 15 years.

Beta reported Filipovic was charged too with spreading false information, for which he faces lesser punishment.

There has been no known response from Filipovic to the charges.

He also worked for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and the Helsinki Human Rights Committee.

The IWPR said Filipovic wrote about the Yugoslav security services, police repression in southern Serbia and a Yugoslav Army reservist protest in Kraljevo.

Filipovic's articles, available on the IWPR internet site, often quoted unnamed military security sources.

He also wrote about atrocities allegedly committed by Yugoslav army soldiers in Kosovo during last year's NATO air strikes, based on soldiers' own accounts, and the plight of Kosovo Serbs who faced reprisals from ethnic Albanians following the withdrawal of Serbian security forces in June last year.

"It is now up to the military court in Nis to decide whether it accepts the case. It must make a decision immediately," Goran Draganic, one of Filipovic's defense lawyers, told Reuters. He did not wish to elaborate.

If the Nis court rejects the case, he said, it will go before the Yugoslav federal court.

"I knew he was working as a journalist, the most dangerous job at the moment, but he never tried to hide anything. He signed all his articles and everybody could read them," said Filipovic's wife, Slavica.

Original article