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Prison Protests Spread in Yugoslavia

November 09, 2000|From Associated Press

NIS, Yugoslavia — Despite government pledges to improve conditions and cut jail time, protests spread to two more Yugoslav prisons Wednesday.

Unlike the previous three days--when inmates rioted, burned buildings and raped female inmates at one facility--Wednesday was quiet, with prisoners roaming outside their cells at prisons in Sremska Mitrovica, Nis and Pozarevac.

But hundreds of inmates at a prison outside Belgrade--the capital of Yugoslavia and its dominant republic, Serbia--and at a juvenile detention center in Valjevo refused to perform work assignments and in some cases declared hunger strikes to back demands to share in an amnesty for political prisoners and receive better treatment.

Three days of prison riots left at least one inmate dead, an unspecified number of people injured and several buildings damaged by fire.

The riots were triggered in part by reports that authorities were considering amnesty for about 900 Kosovo Albanian prisoners, two-thirds of them arrested on terrorism charges during a government crackdown in the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Angered by what they saw as discrimination and perceptions that the Kosovo Albanians were justly jailed for terrorism, the Serbian convicts rioted, setting off fears that the violence would target ethnic Albanian convicts. Government officials, however, said the ethnic Albanian and Serbian convicts acted together.

Sead Spahovic, one of three ministers of justice in Serbia's government, said he and the other two ministers promised the inmates improved jail conditions and reduced terms if the violence ends.

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