August 17, 2000Plot to kill Milosevic denied
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) -- Four Dutch citizens arrested for allegedly plotting to kill President Slobodan Milosevic have vehemently denied the accusation, their lawyers said Thursday.
"All four have expressly and explicitly denied charges against them," Ivan Jankovic, a Belgrade lawyer defending one of the men, said after his first meeting with his client at Belgrade's central prison.
"It is my belief that their earlier statements, including the one on video, have been forced out of them by force, by threats or false promises," Jankovic added, referring to a footage broadcast by a Yugoslav official showing the men in military uniforms and confessing into camera.
Jankovic did not explain further.
The four Dutchmen -- Jeroen van Lersel, Bas van Schaik, Sander Zeitsen and Godfrid de Rie -- were arrested last month on suspicion of plotting to kill Milosevic.
They were sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail for illegally entering the country, Dutch officials said, but remained under investigation and will probably face further charges.
Jankovic said his client, de Rie, was "mildly depressed and constantly talked about his innocence."
He and other defense lawyers rejected as untrue an earlier statement from a Yugoslav official that the group had been after a $30 million bounty for Milosevic.
Earlier this month, Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic said that the men were detained in July attempting to enter Kosovo, Serbia's southern province, from Montenegro, the junior partner in the two-state federation.
At the time, the minister showed footage allegedly taken during interrogation of the four, dressed in military uniforms, with one of them admitting on tape to wanting to abduct Milosevic or former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and turn them over to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.
The video also showed maps, pocket tools, knifes and cameras allegedly used by the Dutch. Another unidentified captive told the camera that in case the abduction of Milosevic failed, one of them "had the idea to kill the president, to decapitate his head, to put it in the box and to send it home" to the Netherlands.
The four Dutchmen are not the only foreigners recently arrested on suspicion of terrorism -- two Canadians and two Britons are imprisoned by the Yugoslav army, awaiting the military prosecutor's decision whether to charge them.
Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who currently holds the roating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called on Yugoslav officials to release the prisoners immediately.