Britain cannot confirm Belgrade 'torture' reports

LONDON, Aug 20, 2000 -- (Reuters) The British Foreign Office said it was unable to confirm Sunday newspaper reports that two Britons held in Yugoslavia on spying charges have been beaten and tortured.

The Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times said the two British police officers - Adrian Prangnell, 41, and John Yore, 31 - had complained they had been punched and slapped by their captors.

The Mail said the two men - who were arrested along with two Canadians in Montenegro nearly three weeks ago - had been subjected to violence and sleep deprivation in an attempt to extract confessions.

The two Britons have been working in Kosovo for nearly a year, training recruits for the new United Nations police force.

As they returned to Kosovo after a short holiday in Montenegro, Yugoslav authorities detained them and said they found detonators and wires for explosives in their vehicle.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said she had no reason to believe the two Britons had been mistreated.

"I haven't heard those allegations," she added.

British and Canadian diplomats visited the four detainees on Friday and reported that all were well. It was the fifth such visit since the Yugoslav army arrested the four.

The Yugoslav army has said it will press terrorism charges against the pair and Canadians Shaun Going and Liam Hall. However the four have not been officially charged and the court has not yet said whether they should stand trial.

Britain has dismissed the case against Prangnell and Yore as absurd, and on Thursday urged Belgrade to either charge or free them.

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