Policemen held in Belgrade visited by diplomat

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The Independent Online

The two British police officers held on terrorism charges by the Yugoslav military received a visit for the first time yesterday by a UK diplomat. The investigation into the two men will finish today.

The two British police officers held on terrorism charges by the Yugoslav military received a visit for the first time yesterday by a UK diplomat. The investigation into the two men will finish today.

Robert Gordon, the head of the British interest section in Belgrade, gave Detective Sergeant Adrian Prangnell and PC John Yore phone cards and cash during their half-hour meeting. They were also given permission to contact their families. Mr Gordon said after the meeting that the two looked fine. "They are in good health and are looking forward to receiving some reading material," he said.

The Canadian chargé d'affaires was also able to meet two Canadians who were arrested on 1 August along with the Britons near the border between Montenegro and Kosovo. The Britons were training a new Kosovo police force, while the Canadians, Shaun Going and his nephew Liam were involved in the reconstruction effort of the Serbian province. Explosives-related equipment was found in Mr. Going's car.

The four are being investigated by the military court in Belgrade on charges of attempted terrorism, illegal entry into Yugoslavia, intending to train armed groups and weapons possession.

Mr Gordon has been told that the investigation, which opened on Wednesday, is due to end today. But the military prosecutor then has two weeks to decide whether to lay formal charges. All four deny the accusations, which carry a sentence of up to 15 years.

Britain is anxious to avoid any politicisation of the case, which is taking place as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is preparing for presidential and local elections on 24 September. Montenegro, the pro-Western junior partner of the Yugoslav Federation, plans to boycott the poll.

Nikola Sainovic, a high-ranking Socialist Party official and close aide to President Milosevic, said the matter was "very serious indeed."

"We take the matter as seriously as any other country would when it discovers foreign nationals - and members of a foreign military - with mine explosive devices to which they admit ownership," he said.

A Foreign Office minister, Keith Vaz, said yesterday that the consular access to the two Britons was "long overdue".

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