Martin Bell, the independent MP for Tatton, yesterday said Pentagon pressure lay behind the arrest by Ministry of Defence police of Milos Stankovic, 35, a member of the Parachute Regiment. Mr Stankovic allegedlypassed top-secret Nato plans to Ratko Mladic, the brutal Serb army chief who masterminded the massacre of the Muslims of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia 1995 and indicted for genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
The investigation threatens to reopen many old wounds about the record in the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict of the British army, which both Bosnia's Muslim-led government as well as the Americans thought bent over backwards to curry favour with the Serbs.
Mr Bell said Mr Stankovic, who was arrested in October last year during a course at the army college in Bracknell, Berkshire, was the victim of an injustice that bore comparison to France's infamous Dreyfus case a century ago.
The MP said the Army had buckled under pressure from Washington to get rid of anyone serving in Bosnia who had family ties in Serbia. This, in spite of the fact that it was these connections that the Army had found useful in the first case. "Everything he was valued for, he was arrested for," he said.
"The original complaint comes from the CIA. The Americans weren't happy with anyone with a family background in Serbia, even though his value to Unprofor [the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia] was that he could get close to the Serb people.
"If he did any spying, it was for the British. In Pale [the Bosnian Serb capital] the Serbs said that he was a nice enough chap, but always remember, his loyalty is to his Crown and his regiment".
Of Serbian descent, Mr Stan- kovic was the Army's chief liaison officer in 1995 when UN peacekeepers and aid workers were taken hostage by the Serbs in 1995. The British UN commander General Rupert Smith removed him from his post in April 1995, apparently following complaints about his alleged outspoken support for the Bosnian Serb cause. He was, however, promoted from captain to major on his return to the UK and was also decorated for his Bosnian service.
Mr Bell said his arrest was a poor reward for someone who had played a part in getting the Bosnian Serbs to unblock food convoys to besieged towns. "He helped to fix up the ceasefire in Bosnia in 1994," he said. The MP said the Americans had been "angry" that the then British commander of UN forces in Bosnia, General Sir Michael Rose, had someone of Serb descent at his right hand. The MP added: "In four months they have failed to find anything. His career has already been ruined by the mere fact of the arrest".
Mr Stankovic - his army career in tatters - is now living with his mother in Cornwall. Dana Stankovic told reporters her son would like to discuss the case but was prohibited from doing so.
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