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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 21:11 GMT 22:11 UK
Serb police rally for commander
Police cadets and a woman
Police officers and cadets showed their support for Streten Lukic
Thousands of Serbian police have attended a rally in central Belgrade to protest against charges being brought against their commander by the United Nations war crimes tribunal.

The tribunal wants Serbia to send General Streten Lukic to The Hague along with three retired generals to face charges of crimes against humanity during the Kosovo conflict between 1998 and 1999.

The chief UN war crimes prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, said Serbia should abandon hopes of being allowed to try the men itself.

Mrs Del Ponte said the seriousness of the cases meant they had to be heard in The Hague.

Peacekeepers

Some reports say around 5,000 police officers, in uniform but without weapons, attended the rally.

Police Academy cadet Nemanja Jevtovic told the protesters: "We want to believe that The Hague court is a symbol of justice, but the latest indictments put us in doubt."

Training officer Peter Nikolic, summed up the feeling of his colleagues.

"It's not right to accuse someone for someone else's guilt in this number," he said.

"We want to keep peace in our country."

Liberal Party leader Sinisa Mitrovic said the indictments were only helping right-wing nationalist forces in Serbia.

Mr Lukic commanded the Serbian police force in Kosovo when up to 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed or left missing before Nato air strikes halted the Serb crackdown.

Bigger prize

Colonel Zoran Misic told Serbian news agency Beta that police officers in Kosovo had carried out their duties honourably and professionally.

He said that the police were protecting the civilian population from the Albanian terrorists who were "terrorising before the international community's eyes."

The BBC's Matthew Price, in Belgrade, said there are some who wonder whether these indictments are intended to force Serbia to deliver the bigger prize of former Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic.

He said the United States has indicated Belgrade will be allowed to deal with these cases in domestic courts if Mr Mladic is handed over.




SEE ALSO:
Mladic a 'priority' for Serbia
23 Oct 03  |  Europe
Prosecutor demands Mladic arrest
03 Oct 03  |  Europe
New Rwanda prosecutor named
29 Aug 03  |  Africa
Profile: Carla Del Ponte
28 Aug 03  |  Europe
Prosecutor loses Rwanda role
28 Aug 03  |  Africa
UN prosecutor defends role
08 Aug 03  |  Africa
The Hague's wanted men
20 Feb 03  |  Europe


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