August 11, 2000Four Dutch nationals convicted
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- Four Dutch nationals accused of plotting to kill President Slobodan Milosevic have been sentenced to 30 days in jail for entering the country illegally, Dutch officials said Friday.
Yugoslav authorities said they would arraign the four soon on charges that they entered the country as part of a plot to assassinate Milosevic or kidnap him and take him to The Hague to face trial for alleged war crimes, according to the Dutch Embassy.
Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic said the four men were arrested in July when they tried to enter Kosovo from the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro. There was no word on when they were convicted of the lesser charge of illegal entry.
Last week, the Yugoslav army arrested two Britons and two Canadians along the rugged mountain border between Kosovo and Montenegro, whose pro-Western government opposes Milosevic.
The Britons, who work as instructors at the U.N. police academy in Kosovo, and the two Canadians, private contractors there, are undergoing preliminary hearings to determine whether they will be indicted for terrorism and training Montenegrin secessionists.
All four have denied the charge, and the United Nations said they were simply returning from a holiday in Montenegro.
On Friday, a Canadian diplomat said his government had requested the help of Russia's foreign minister in winning the release of the four.
Craig Bale, Canada's acting ambassador in Belgrade, said Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy had contacted his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, to ask Russia's assistance in the case.
"Mr. Axworthy has been in contact with Ivanov. The Russians have been very helpful," Bale said. "That is much appreciated."
Bale and a British diplomat in Belgrade also met with the four suspects again Friday, after seeing them a day earlier for the first time since they were detained more than a week ago in Montenegro near the border with Kosovo. The diplomats delivered books and newspapers.
"They are in good spirits, in good health," Bale said. The diplomats would see the suspects again Monday.