Britons deny charges in Serb court

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The Independent Online

Diplomats hope to be granted access today to two British police officers who denied terrorism-related accusations at their first appearance before a Yugoslav military court in Belgrade yesterday.

Diplomats hope to be granted access today to two British police officers who denied terrorism-related accusations at their first appearance before a Yugoslav military court in Belgrade yesterday.

Detective Sergeant Adrian Prangnell and PC John Yore, who were detained in Montenegro with two Canadians last week, appeared "in good condition", their British appointed lawyer, Djordje Djurisic, said after the preliminary hearing.

The next hearing was set for tomorrow, when witnesses are to be interrogated and experts will give their opinion on "the quality of the mining gear" found in the Canadians' possession, Mr Djurisic said.

The four were arrested as they were returning from a short holiday in Montenegro to Kosovo, where DS Prangnell and PC Yore have been training the Serbian province's new force. Their Canadian colleagues, Shaun Going and his nephew Liam Hall, are building contractors.

With attention turning to the contents of the Canadians' vehicle, two MPs, Alice Mahon and Tam Dalyell, expressed concern about Mr Going's reported admission to have paid £40,000 earlier this year to the brother of the Kosovo Liberation Army leader Hashim Thaci in return for a building contract.

Keith Vaz, a Foreign Office minister, said that "unhelpful and irresponsible speculation about the detainees puts them at risk" and played into the hands of those who sought to politicise the case.

Military authorities in Podgorica, capital of pro-Western Montenegro, transferred the men to Belgrade to face accusations of attempted terrorism, illegal entry into Yugoslavia, intending to train armed groups and weapons possession. "This is the preliminary investigation, when the examination of suspects takes place," Mr Djurisic said. "It is up to the military prosecutor to decide whether to press charges once the investigative procedure is over." He expected a decision on whether charges would be laid against the four in the next "two to three weeks".

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