Diplomats exasperated at lengthy imprisonment of two Britons, two Canadians

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The Independent Online

Foreign diplomats visiting the two Britons and two Canadians jailed by the Yugoslav army on suspicions of terrorism expressed indignation on Friday at the length of imprisonment for the four.

Foreign diplomats visiting the two Britons and two Canadians jailed by the Yugoslav army on suspicions of terrorism expressed indignation on Friday at the length of imprisonment for the four.

Robert Gordon, a British representative in Belgrade, told reporters after seeing the two Britons that he was hoping "something happens and that they are released soon."

Gordon did not elaborate what that "something" would entail.

"Obviously - they have been in prison now for a very, very long time, for doing nothing more than accompanying two friends on a weekend in Montenegro," Gordon said.

Britons Adrian Prangnell and John Yore were arrested Aug. 1 together with two Canadian friends from Kosovo, when Yugoslav army troops stopped and searched their vehicle in Montenegro, which makes up Yugoslavia along with much larger Serbia. The four were on holiday on the Montenegrin coast and were en route back to Kosovo.

The two arrested Britons train local police for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Canadians worked in construction - Shaun Going is contractor employed in rebuilding homes damaged by war and his nephew, Liam Hall was working in his uncle's company for the summer. None have been formally charged and are being held at a Belgrade military prison awaiting a decision by the army prosecutor whether to indict them.

Canada's charge d'affaires in Belgrade, Angela Bogdan, who visited the two Canadians Friday, said that they asked her to pass on to families and friends that the two were "extremely grateful for the messages of goodwill."

"Liam very much hopes that he'll be able to start university September 15 and we are hoping that that can be a realization for him," Bogdan said referring to the 19-year old.

The Yugoslav army said it found explosives-related materials in the group's car, but Going maintained this was leftover material from his work as contractor.

If found guilty of terrorism, the four could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

On Thursday, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the OSCE, called on Yugoslav officials to release the prisoners immediately.

"A speedy release of the four detained would be perceived as a sign that Yugoslavia is complying with international obligations," media here quoted Ferrero-Waldner as saying.

The Britons and Canadians are not the only foreigners jailed in Belgrade. Four Dutch citizens were arrested last month on suspicion of plotting to kill President Slobodan Milosevic. They were sentenced last week to 30 days in jail for illegally entering the country but remain under investigation and will likely face additional charges. They, too, deny all charges.

The increase in the arrests of foreigners here follows allegations by officials that NATO is hiring mercenaries to snatch fugitive war crimes suspects on Yugoslav territory. Milosevic has been indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, in connection with atrocities committed in Kosovo.

Dutch soldiers serving with the NATO and U.N. peacekeepers in Kosovo, Serbia's southern province, received orders Thursday to keep out of the rest of Yugoslavia and not travel while off-duty to Serbia proper or Montenegro.

Although Kosovo is still officially part of Yugoslavia, it is now run by international peacekeepers after last year's 78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Milosevic to end his crackdown on the province's majority Albanians and withdraw his troops.

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