Serb reporter to face military espionage trial

BELGRADE, Jul 24, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Serbian journalist who wrote about the activities of Yugoslav forces in Kosovo will go on trial before a military court on Tuesday on espionage charges.

The court in the southern town of Nis last month filed charges against Miroslav Filipovic, who has been in military detention since May 22.

No details of the charges have been given. The trial will be closed to the public.

Zoran Ateljevic, Filipovic's defense lawyer, told Reuters on Friday:

"What I can say is that my client is not charged with any concrete activities that he may have performed outside his journalistic activities. He acted solely as a journalist and signed all his articles."

If convicted, Filipovic could face up to 20 years in prison.

He was arrested in the central town of Kraljevo on May 8 after state security forces searched his apartment and confiscated personal files and a computer hard drive. He was released on May 12 but arrested again 10 days later.

Filipovic worked as a correspondent for the Belgrade-based independent daily Danas. He was also a stringer for the French news agency Agence France Press and reported for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

He also worked for the Helsinki Human Rights Committee.

An IWPR editor said Filipovic had been interrogated about articles he had written for the London-based institute, which publishes its reports on the Internet.

"What I believe is that he is probably charged for some articles connected with his journalistic work about war crimes in Kosovo, or possible new conflicts in Montenegro," Gordana Igric, IWPR associate editor for Balkan crisis reports, told Reuters by telephone from London.

Filipovic wrote about the activities of Yugoslav security services, alleged police repression in southern Serbia, and Yugoslav army reservists' protests in Kraljevo last year.

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

Igric said Filipovic had not treated any of the texts he had filed as confidential and had put his byline on all the articles.

"Miroslav sent us articles, they were all signed by him, they were used for journalistic purposes, as public information and not as intelligence information," Igric said.

Igric said she believed Filipovic was the first journalist in Yugoslavia to be tried for espionage.

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