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Sunday, 5 December, 1999, 18:38 GMT
Serbia arrests human rights lawyer
Djakovica during the Nato bombing Djakovica: Many Kosovars arrested during the Nato bombing

Serb police in Belgrade have arrested a Kosovo Albanian human rights lawyer, two days before he was due to defend Kosovars held in Serbian jails.

Teki Bokshi had been visiting prisoners in a jail in north-western Serbia when his car was stopped by plain-clothes police and he was taken into custody.


They're trying to get us to stop our work
Human rights lawyer Natasa Kandic
The United Nations' Special Envoy for Human Rights in Former Yugoslavia, Jiri Dienstbier, has demanded an explanation from the Yugoslav authorities for Mr Bokshi's arrest.

Mr Bokshi is a representative of the Kosovo branch of the Humanitarian Law Centre, based in Belgrade.

"They're trying to get us to stop our work", said Natasa Kandic, director of the centre.

"Only our lawyers have been coming to Serbia to defend prisoners from Kosovo."

More than 2,000 Kosovo Albanians are currently held in Serbian jails.

Ms Kandic said Mr Bokshi is from Djakovica, a town in western Kosovo, where many people were arrested during Nato's strikes against Yugoslavia earlier this year.

Civilian refugees

Court proceedings were due to begin for 28 of 155 defendants in the western town of Pozarevac on Monday.

"We had expected them to be released since they were all taken from a civilian refugee column," Ms Kandic said.

"But now that Bokshi has been arrested we don't know."

The authorities have already released at least 267 of the Kosovo Albanian prisoners registered by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A string of trials is currently under way for those arrested during the air strikes because a six-month time limit, within which they must be tried or released, is running out.

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See also:
25 Jun 99 |  Europe
Kosovo prisoners freed

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