YUGOSLAVIA: RELEASE OF AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'Miroslav Filipovic's release is good news for all those who support the right of journalists to report allegations of serious human rights abuses. His imprisonment was a scandalous attack on the basic right to free speech, and his release a welcome break with the recent past in Yugoslavia.

'The Yugoslav authorities should follow Mr Filipovic's release with an investigation into the allegations made in his articles.'

On 6 October 2000, with news of the release of the two British policemen John Yore and Adrian Prangnell, Amnesty International UK called for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience being held in Yugoslavia, including Miroslav Filipovic.

In June 2000 Mr Filipovic was shortlisted for the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism for his articles for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). To view these articles online, refer to the IWPR website: www.iwpr.net

Background Miroslav Filipovic, journalist for Serbian independent daily newspaper Dana, was arrested at his home in Kraljevo on 8 May 2000; apart from a period of ten days, he was held in custody until 26 July 2000 until tried and convicted on charges of 'espionage' and 'spreading false information'. He was sentenced by Niš Military Court to seven years' imprisonment, having been found guilty of 'espionage' under Article 128 (paragraphs 1 and 4) of the Federal Criminal Code and of 'spreading false information' under Article 218 of the Serbian Criminal Code.

The case allegedly concerned 'state secrets'; no details were made available about the charges, evidence or progress of the trial, part of which was held in camera. Filipovic appears to have been indicted following articles that included reported eye-witness accounts of alleged human rights violations by members of Serbian and Yugoslav forces in Kosovo.

During his imprisonment Amnesty International expressed serious concern about the denial of urgently needed medical care for Mr Filipovic. After his arrest in May 2000, Mr Filipovic lost twenty kilograms in weight and was diagnosed as having an irregular heartbeat. He became unwell on 3 August after a week in Niš Military Prison and doctors at the Belgrade Military Hospital indicated that Filipovic was in desperate need of medical care.

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