Serbia Jails Kosovo Albanian Doctor

December 9, 1999

NIS, Serbia (Reuters) - A Serbian court sentenced a prominent Kosovo Albanian doctor, humanitarian worker and poet to 12 years in jail on Thursday for terrorism during NATO's March to June air strikes against Yugoslavia.

"We are declaring Flora Brovina guilty... We are making a decision that she is sentenced to 12 years imprisonment," presiding judge Marina Milanovic told the court.

The judgement is likely to be greeted with anger in Kosovo, where Brovina, a pediatrician, was a well known as a leader of womens' groups distributing humanitarian aid and an organiser of protests against Serb rule.

It was one of dozens cases now being brought against hundreds of Kosovo Albanians arrested during the air strikes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said almost 2,000 Kosovo Albanians are being held in Serb jails.

The Yugoslav authorities say they were involved in terrorism during the conflict between Serb forces and Kosovo Albanian separatist guerrillas. Human rights lawyers say many of the sentences are backed by little or no evidence.

The charge against Brovina as read by the court was "association for hostile activities related to terrorism, carried out during the state of war."

The prosecutor said Brovina, who was arrested outside her apartment in the Kosovo capital Pristina in April, had associated with and helped the separatist guerrilla movement, the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The KLA fought Serb security forces for more than a year before the air strikes forced Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces and let in NATO-led troops.


Brovina, one of almost 2,000 Kosovo Albanians held in Serb jails, denied the allegations, saying her work was purely humanitarian and had nothing to do with the KLA.

"I was only helping women and children, I am proud of it and I would do the same again today," she told the court. Brovina also said that if she could she would now be helping Serbs, who have become the target of revenge attacks by Kosovo's Albanian majority for years of Serb repression against them.

"If I were free, I would again have work to do in Kosovo, where vengeance rules and the other side is now endangered," Brovina said.

Prosecutor Miodrag Surla said she was putting on an act.

"I do not believe in a single word of what she said. I think I proved her guilt, it was only a mask over her true face."

His case centred on a photograph taken of her with a KLA member and a statement she had signed soon after her arrest saying she had known the KLA were involved in an organisation she was in and that some women had made them uniforms.

Brovina admitted the photograph had been taken, saying she had been surprised when she found the husband of one of her friends in uniform. She denied the allegations, saying she had signed the statement after hours of interrogation by police.

When the sentence was read, her only response was a slight smile. Her husband, sitting on the public benches clapped his hands with bitter irony and said "Bravo."

After the case, which was attended by human rights activists, the director of the Yugoslav committee of lawyers for human rights, Gradimir Nalic, said the sentence would encourage Kosovo Albanian judges to pass stiff judgments on Serbs.

"This decision reveals the state's negligence towards Serbs who remained in Kosovo and who are tried there. This decision does not have anything to do with European standards."

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