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Students in Yugoslavia Protest Milosevic's Decade of 'Tyranny'

Balkans: Thousands take to the streets of Belgrade and other cities. They also urge the opposition to give impetus to bid to oust regime.

May 27, 2000|From Associated Press

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Thousands of students marched Friday in this Yugoslav and Serbian capital, demanding an end to the "tyranny" of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The students voiced frustration over the opposition bickering that has enabled Milosevic to survive politically for the past decade despite Yugoslavia's disintegration and the loss last year of Kosovo, province of Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic.

Marching outside Belgrade's City Hall, which is run by the opposition, the students chanted slogans calling on opposition leaders to come out and explain their strategy.

"Ten years is too much out of a lifetime to be spent in the hell of tyranny," the students said in a manifesto. "We call on all to end this shame."

The students, led by the democracy movement called Otpor, or Resistance, said more than 700 of its activists have been detained for questioning in recent months.

About 4,000 students, chanting "Kill yourself Slobodan and save Serbia!" outlined their demands at the rally in Belgrade.

They included a call to allow a "peaceful transition of power" and a demand for those "responsible for Serbia's demise to leave."

The students urged the opposition "by personal example to give impetus to a wide national rebellion against state terrorism."

The opposition has called a mass rally for today in Belgrade in what will be a major test of strength, but the students were skeptical.

"It's the final moment for the opposition to come to its senses and not waste time," said Branko Ilic, an Otpor leader. "We will come to the rally to see whether the opposition has any plan."

In a rally in the southern Serbian city of Nis, one opposition leader, Goran Svilanovic, criticized his colleagues, saying they failed to respond adequately to the government takeover of Belgrade's Studio B television last week.

"If we do not resist now, they will come into our houses, burn them and chase us away," Svilanovic told about 3,000 people.

Fearing a student uprising, the government ordered university classes to end a week early and banned all gatherings on campuses across Serbia.

The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church endorsed the students' demands and called for the release of all those detained and an end to government violence, the independent Beta news agency said.

Later Friday, the independent daily Danas was fined about $50,000 in a libel suit filed by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, an ultranationalist leader who has called for even tougher measures against free media.

An editor at Danas, Rasa Savic, said the daily was given 24 hours to pay the fine.

Several hundred people attended the ninth consecutive evening protest against the takeover of Studio B.

At the rally, Studio B journalists read their news in a makeshift open-air studio on the balcony of the Belgrade City Hall.

Meanwhile, the Yugoslav army, which is controlled by Milosevic, urged a crackdown on "external and internal enemies." The latter term is used to describe the opposition.

Police detained and questioned more than a dozen opposition and Otpor activists in several Serbian cities.

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