Sketchy details emerge of four Dutch in YU

BELGRADE, Aug 12, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs released sketchy details on Friday of four Dutchmen being held in Yugoslavia, saying they had initially been sentenced to 30 days in jail for illegal border crossing.

The information came from lawyers hired to represent the four, arrested last month on suspicion of plotting to kidnap or kill President Slobodan Milosevic, and confirmed by the Yugoslav Foreign Affairs Ministry, a Dutch foreign affairs spokesman said.

Their original sentence will end on August 18, but in the meantime Yugoslav authorities suspect the four of "heavy criminal offences", but have not given any more details.

"From the television pictures we understand they may be accused of terrorism and other things which we cannot take very seriously, but everything is still up in the air," the spokesman said.

Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic announced their arrest on July 31 and said the four had been sent by Western intelligence agencies. They have been shown on an official video film saying they had planned to kidnap or kill Milosevic.

The four men have not been seen by their Yugoslav lawyers, Dutch officials or their family members since their arrest.

"We haven't seen them. We've had no telephone contact. We're hopeful, but the authorities have made promises before. We're running out of patience," the spokesman said.

The Dutch envoy to Belgrade has protested to the Yugoslav Foreign Affairs Ministry because the men were sentenced without having access to a lawyer of their choice, and because the Dutch embassy was not informed earlier.

The Netherlands was also keeping up contacts with Britain and Canada in connection with the arrest of two Britons and two Canadians, as well as seeking other international allies to support them with the issue, a statement said.

Original article