YU tells West to stay out of detainee case

Havana, Cuba, Aug 29, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, on a visit to communist-run Cuba, told Western nations on Monday not to pressure Belgrade in the case of two Britons and two Canadians held as suspected terrorists.

"We consider any pressure, interference not to be conducive with the court procedure," Jovanovic said when asked about calls for the release of two British policemen and a Canadian businessman and his nephew, all detained about a month ago.

Jovanovic, in Cuba to thank President Fidel Castro's government for its solidarity during the 1999 Kosovo crisis, insisted at a news briefing in Havana that the four men were being well treated as a judicial investigation got underway.

"The process, court procedure is in development.... They are charged for violating the laws of Yugoslavia, and threatening conducting terrorist actions on the soil of Yugoslavia against Yugoslav representatives," he said at a news briefing in Havana.

"What is important - they enjoy all rights to a defense and consular visits, so there are not any reasons for concern."

Arrested in the border area between Kosovo and the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, the four are being held by Belgrade's military court pending possible trial. The men - Britons Adrian Prangnell and John Yore and Canadians Shaun Going and Liam Hall - have all denied they were planning to mount terrorist attacks in Yugoslavia.

Ottawa and London both said the suspicions of espionage and terrorism were unfounded, and have urged the men's release.

The Yugoslav province of Kosovo has been under UN administration, backed by NATO-led troops, since mid-1999, after an 11-week NATO bomb campaign to stop Belgrade's oppression of the Albanian majority and allow refugees back.


During NATO's aerial bombardment of Serbian targets, the Castro government was one of the few voices worldwide to back Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Havana slammed the bombing as a "monstrous crime," hailed the "bravery and heroism" of Serbian under fire and called for then-NATO boss Javier Solano to be tried for war crimes.

Welcoming Jovanovic on Monday, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque reiterated "our solidarity with the Yugoslav people and our position of principles relating to the unjust war imposed on the Yugoslav people last year."

Jovanovic praised Cuba's "great people" and said he felt "among intimate friends, intimate brothers" as soon as he touched down on Sunday on the Caribbean island.

"I would like to express our highest recognition for the understanding, backing and solidarity shown by the Cuban leadership, led by President Fidel Castro, regarding the support for Yugoslavia during the NATO aggression against our country," he said.

Jovanovic, on a two-day visit, placed a wreath earlier on Monday at a monument to Cuba's 19th century independence hero Jose Marti in Havana's Revolution Square.

He also met privately with Castro, visited Havana's Latin American Medicine School and signed a mutual investment promotion and protection accord.

Jovanovic said Yugoslavia was interested in investing in housing and hotel construction, electricity generation, tourism, agroindustry, food and food processing on the island.

Speaking to reporters after signing the investment accord, he said there was "an especially favorable political climate for Yugoslavia" in Cuba. But he admitted the scope of economic cooperation was limited because "both countries are suffering illegal sanctions which have never been approved by the UN Security Council."

The Yugoslav delegation was due to fly out of Cuba on Tuesday on a Latin American tour also taking him to Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and Chile.

Original article