Belgrade's jailing of activist sparks international protest

THE JAILING in Serbia of Flora Brovina, an Albanian paediatrician, writer and women's activist, has attracted international protest and highlighted one of the unresolved issues of the Kosovo war - the estimated 1,500 Albanian political prisoners still held by the Belgrade regime.

Dr Brovina, 50, was arrested in Pristina in April and has now been sentenced to 12 years by a court in the Serbian city of Nis for "conspiring to commit hostile acts" and "terrorism" aimed at promoting the independence of Kosovo. The evidence against her included possession of wool donated by Oxfam, which she distributed to displaced Albanian women to knit sweaters. The British-based aid organisation also has projects in Serbia, but as Nikola Barovic, a Belgrade lawyer, put it: "In Stalin's time one got 10 years for nothing. Here one gets 12."

Another Serbian legal figure, Natasha Kandic, head of the Humanitarian Law Centre, said: "The sentence against Flora Brovina is a political measure against her [and] clearly has nothing to do with the alleged crime Brovina has committed."

Other Serbian opposition groups described her imprisonment as "ethnic revenge", especially after it emerged that both the judge in Dr Brovina's trial, Marina Milanovic, and the prosecutor, Miodrag Surla, come from Kosovo. Both worked in the district court of Pristina, which hurriedly moved to Nis when the Serbian administration withdrew from the province in June. Serbian judges are named by parliament and are considered part of the regime.

Although she suffers from health problems - she has high blood pressure and slight paralysis on her left side - Dr Brovina is reported to have refused to lodge an appeal against her sentence. Married to Ajri Begu, who is now an economic adviser to the United Nations administration in Kosovo, she supported herself during her medical studies by writing for magazines, and has published several books of poetry. She is unusual in her generation of Albanian women for her involvement in public affairs - in 1992 she founded the League of Albanian Women in Kosovo to protest against Serbian rule and to provide humanitarian assistance to Albanian women and children.

Although she insisted the organisation was non-political, she organised numerous protests. When Serbian forces staged bloody reprisals in the Drenica region early in 1998, she led 20,000 women in a march through Pristina.

The Serbian authorities had probably marked Dr Brovina out as an opponent much earlier, however. Her PhD thesis was on a spate of mysterious poisonings in Kosovo in 1990, when thousands of Albanian schoolchildren were sent to hospital with head and stomach pains and vomiting. Some experts blamed mass hysteria, but a UN toxicologist who analysed the victims' blood and urine samples found signs of sarin poisoning. Several years later it emerged that the Yugoslav army had produced the deadly nerve gas.

Gradimir Nalic, of the Yugoslav Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights, said Dr Brovina was "a scapegoat". "The whole process against her," he added, "showed the arrogance of the regime. There was also a message in that for the first time it was not an anonymous, simple ethnic Albanian on trial, but an intellectual, a physician, a human rights activist."

Baton Haxhiu, editor of Koha Ditore, Kosovo's most prominent Albanian- language newspaper, described Dr Brovina as a "hostage" of Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic. "Her imprisonment, with the Serbian elections coming up, helps him to show his people that Kosovo is not lost," he said. "Milosevic can say: `This is how we deal with separatists and terrorists on our soil.' It is also useful in his dealings with the international community - Flora and the rest of the Albanians held in Serbia can be used as bargaining chips as he tries to escape isolation."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine