Britons held on spy charges are freed from jail

Political Prisoners
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The Independent Online

The two British policemen held in a Serbian prison on accusations of spying were abruptly released yesterday.

The two British policemen held in a Serbian prison on accusations of spying were abruptly released yesterday.

Adrian Pragnell and John Yore, arrested three months ago on the border between Montenegro and Kosovo, were handed over to British diplomats yesterday. One of the two Canadians detained with them, Liam Hall, was also freed, and the other, Shaun Going, is expected to be freed soon.

All three freed men have been told criminal proceedings against them have been dropped. Mr Going will be kept in custody for a "little longer to face a minor charge", their Serbian lawyers said.

Tony Blair, said the move was a highly encouraging signal that the government of Vojislav Kostunica was responding to the British offer of friendship. He added: "This is excellent news. We have always maintained that they were innocent of the charges against them." Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, said the the releases also showed that the new government was "prepared to live within the law".

The authorities released the men after the British military liaison officer in Belgrade, Robert Gordon, asked the prosecutor to distance himself from the Milosevic regime by dropping the case. Last night Detective Sergeant Pragnell, 41, and PC Yore, 31, were celebrating at Mr Gordon's home. Mr Pragnell said: "I'll be going to the first bar and have a large drink to celebrate. This is a very happy day for us."

Mr Pragnell's partner, Wendy Priston, said: "It's fabulous news, I am thrilled and delighted that 67 days of sheer hell are over. I can't wait to see them again." PC Yore's mother, Carolyn Harrod, said she was "delighted".

It is understood DS Pragnell, from the Hampshire force, and PC Yore, from the Cambridgeshire force, will return to England in the next few days.

The two men were on their way back to Kosovo from a holiday on the Montenegrin coast, with Mr Going, a contractor, and his nephew Mr Hall, when they were stopped by a Yugoslav Army patrol. Detonation wire and explosives, which Mr Going claimed were to be used for construction work, were found in their vehicle.

They were initially accused of espionage and terrorism. They were taken to the Montenegrin capital, Podgerica, and then to Belgrade. The four men appeared before the Supreme Military Court but were not formally charged with any offences.