Dutchmen's detention in Belgrade extended

BELGRADE, Sep 19, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslav judges have extended the detention of four Dutchmen arrested in July and accused of plotting to kill President Slobodan Milosevic, a defense lawyer said on Monday.

Attorney Ivan Jankovic, representing Godfried de Rie, said the judges decided to extend the detention period until November 17 as the investigation into the case was not yet complete.

He said the panel believed the men would flee Yugoslavia if they were released in the meantime.

"It is bad news," Jankovic told Reuters by telephone.

De Rie is accused of leading a terrorist group which intended to kidnap or kill Milosevic.

The other three detainees - Bas van Schaik, Sander Zeitsen and Jeroen van Iersel - were accused of being members of the group. All four have denied the allegations against them.

The arrests were announced in July by Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic. In televised "confessions" one of the men outlined plans to abduct Milosevic and deliver him to the UN war crimes tribunal or to cut off his head.

Attorney Vladimir Petrovic, representing Zeitsen, confirmed that the detention had been extended by two months, but said he expected the investigation to be completed soon, explaining that nothing more remained to be done.

After the investigative judge ends his probe, the prosecutor will decide whether to charge the men formally.

Petrovic said Zeitsen's mother and brother visited him in detention on Monday.

"It was emotional and it was not easy for them," Petrovic said, adding that they had at least been able to see that he was currently treated well.

He said there was not enough evidence to indict them, but that his personal opinion was that they would still face trial. "I think the case will go to trial," he told Reuters.

Western officials have dismissed suggestions the men could have been agents and said they seemed to be adventurers who fell into the hands of Serbian police and were being used by Milosevic for propaganda purposes.

Yugoslav presidential and parliamentary elections, as well as Serbian local elections, are due next Sunday.

Two Canadians and two Britons were arrested in early August in the Western-leaning Yugoslav republic of Montenegro on suspicion of attempted terrorism.

Their detention was on August 31 extended by up to one month pending further investigation.

The Yugoslav government is seeking to make the election campaign into a matter of life and death for the country, accusing its domestic opponents of being traitors and Western lackeys.

Original article