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12-year prison for Kosovo doctor Flora Brovina

* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International *

News Service 233/99 AI INDEX: EUR 70/133/99 10 November 1999

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)

12-year prison sentence for Kosovo doctor is outrageous

After an unfair trial, a Serbian court sitting in Nis yesterday sentenced an ethnic Albanian medical doctor to 12 years' imprisonment on charges of "association for the purposes of hostile activity" in connection with "terrorism". Amnesty International believes the authorities are making an example of Dr Flora Brovina and is calling for her release.

Although the written judgment has yet to be issued, Amnesty International's information indicates that the charges against Dr Brovina are without foundation.

Dr Brovina was accused of assisting the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), by supplying medicines, treating wounded KLA fighters, and helping to supply them with uniforms. The activities were allegedly carried out in Pristina (Prishtina) from her clinic and the office of the League of Albanian women, an association which she helped found in 1992. In court she denied any connection with KLA.

Reports of the trial indicate that the evidence produced against her was weak and consisted primarily of self-incriminating statements which she signed under duress. During the trial she withdrew the statements and stated that she had been interrogated 18 times after her arrest in Pristina in April while the Kosovo conflict was at its height. Sometimes Dr Brovina was questioned from morning to late afternoon without food. She complained that during the period of interrogation she was suffering from angina and on one occasion she was hit on the head by police.

Other evidence reportedly consisted of testimony from one witness, photocopied documents and a photograph of Dr Brovina with a man in KLA uniform, whom she stated she met by chance as he was the husband of a friend.

During yesterday's hearing the court accepted the prosecutor's amendment of the indictment to include stiffer penalties which apply in time of war.

According to the authorities some 1,900 other ethnic Albanians are detained in Serbian prisons. Some have already been sentenced in unfair trials after having statements extracted from them under torture, while others await trials which are also likely to be unfair.

ENDS.../ Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street, WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom

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