Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ethnic tension rising in Presheva

BELGRADE, Serbia: About 3,000 ethnic Albanians rallied in tense southern Serbia on Monday, demanding the release of 10 imprisoned former Kosovo rebels suspected of war crimes, a news agency reported.

The rally in Presevo, a predominantly ethnic Albanian town near the boundary with Kosovo, was peaceful. However, it was another sign of simmering ethnic tensions in an area that was the scene of an ethnic Albanian rebellion in 2000-2001.

The protesters carried signs such as "Freedom Fighters Don't Belong In Jail," the independent Beta news agency reported. The organizers warned that the arrests have led to tensions in the volatile region, the agency said.

Serbian police last month arrested the former Kosovo fighters, accusing them of atrocities — including torture, rape and murder — against Serb civilians in the eastern Kosovo town of Gnjilane in the aftermath of the 1998-99 war.

On Monday, Serbia's war crimes court said it has extended the detention of the group by another two months. Court spokeswoman Ivana Ramic said the suspects must remain in custody because they face serious charges and because they could influence the witnesses.


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