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Crisis in Yugoslavia

Yugoslav Court Jails 2 Foreign Journalists

April 25, 1999|DAVID HOLLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia — Here in Montenegro, Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav federation, the reformist government is resisting efforts by the Yugoslav army to increase its authority at civilian expense. On Saturday, however, the presidential press office said a military court had ordered 30 days of pretrial confinement for two foreign journalists detained in the republic.

Erich Vajone, a cameraman with the French television station TF-1, was taken into custody by the army Tuesday near the town of Rozaje, close to Montenegro's border with Kosovo, while trying to film a report on the killing by uniformed men of six refugees from the war-torn Serbian province.

Villagers in the area have said that Yugoslav soldiers or Serbian paramilitary units were responsible for the killings and that the dead included an elderly woman and a 13-year-old boy.

The army has said its soldiers killed four guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army in the incident, not refugees.

The other journalist, a reporter for the independent Croatian weekly Globus, is being held at the Spuz Prison near Podgorica, the press office said. Antun Masle also was arrested Tuesday, shortly after crossing into Montenegro from Albania. Ranko Vukotic, Masle's attorney, said his client faces a possible sentence of "at least 10 years" because he has been accused of the criminal act of "disseminating military secrets," in the words of the presidential press statement.

The government of President Milo Djukanovic has welcomed hundreds of foreign reporters to Montenegro, but the Yugoslav army has said that most are in the republic illegally or quasi-legally because they do not have visas issued by the regime in Belgrade, the Serbian and Yugoslav capital. Montenegro does not require visas for foreign visitors.

Montenegro also does not recognize the legality of military courts set up by the Yugoslav army since NATO's bombing campaign began, but it has been powerless to dismantle them.

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