CEOL
Masked men beat up Belgrade students

BELGRADE, May 25, 2000 -- (Reuters) Masked men beat up students as they were leaving a protest sit-in at Belgrade University, opposition activists said on Wednesday amid a growing crackdown on political dissent.

The students were about to leave the hall of the architecture faculty late on Tuesday when some 30 men wearing green surgical masks and carrying baseball bats burst in and started beating them and forcing them out, they said.

A crisis center formed by the Alliance for Change opposition umbrella group said it had received calls from a number of students on Tuesday night about the beatings. There were no reports of serious injuries.

At the time of the attack the state power company cut off electricity in that part of town, plunging the faculty, adjacent buildings and the street into darkness, the center said. There was no immediate comment from officials.

Architecture faculty students had joined those of the language and philosophy faculties, the student-based Otpor (Resistance) movement and demonstrators across Serbia to protest against a crackdown on opposition media and demonstrators.

On Wednesday, 3,000 students marched in the southern city of Nis to protest against the crackdown, Beta news agency said.

They called on police and army officials to come to the premises of the student-based Otpor movement to see that it is not a "fascist organization" as authorities have labeled it.

Marching in front of the army headquarters in Nis, one activist called on the army to decide "whether it will be with the people or will protect the regime", Beta said.

Beta said on Tuesday that police had detained more than 230 people in 35 towns over eight days.

CRACKDOWN FOLLOWS SHOOTINGS

The crackdown followed the assassination of ruling party official Bosko Perosevic in Novi Sad on May 13, the latest in a series of mysterious killings of officials and underworld figures.

Federal Information Minister Goran Matic blamed Otpor and the opposition parties, branding them "terrorists" and saying they were being sponsored by the West to overthrow Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. They have denied the charge.

Students of the philosophy faculty wrote to their dean on Wednesday asking him to call an urgent teachers' meeting over the "increasingly pronounced violation of basic human rights and police terror".

"We ask you not to yield to any political pressure but to put the protection of the life and security of your students and other citizens first," the letter said.

It said 36 students of the faculty had been beaten and called for the teachers to halt classes.

Beta said students at the mathematics faculty gathered for a protest on Wednesday while security guards at the faculty of architecture prevented two professors from going in.



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