Serbs to charge British policemen with terrorism

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The Independent Online

The diplomatic crisis over the arrest of two British policemen and two Canadians in Montenegro escalated yesterday with the news that the men will be charged with terrorism.

The diplomatic crisis over the arrest of two British policemen and two Canadians in Montenegro escalated yesterday with the news that the men will be charged with terrorism.

A Yugoslav army spokesman said DS Adrian Pragnell, PC John Yore, Shaun Going and Liam Hall would be charged within 24 hours and their trial is likely to take place in Belgrade. The British Government accused President Slobodan Milosevic's regime of manufacturing the accusations.

Yesterday afternoon, in Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, the four men gave statements to an examining magistrate in which they strenuously denied the charges against them. Vojislav Zecevic, the men's state-appointed lawyer said they all looked healthy and did not complain of any mistreatment.

DS Pragnell, 41, an officer with the Hampshire force, and PC Yore, 31, a Cambridgeshire officer were held by Yugoslav forces last Tuesday along with Mr Going, 45, and Mr Hall, his 19 year old nephew, as they were returning to Kosovo from a short holiday in Montenegro, the sister republic to Serbia in the Yugoslav federation.

The policemen are part of an Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission to train the police force in Kosovo. Mr Going is a building contractor.

The Government said it still had not been informed by the the Yugoslav authorities of the charges brought against the two British officers or even of the fact that they had been detained. All attempts to get consular access to the men have failed, the Foreign Office said.

Foreign Office minister Keith Vaz dismissed the claims made by the Yugoslavs. He said: "I think we can be excused for not believing stories put out by Milosevic and the people who support his regime. We've had no information, we've not been told why they are being held, we have - as usual with Milosevic and his regime - rumours and innuendo being spread about like confetti."

Yesterday, Mr Yore's mother, Carolyn Herrod, said: "Anyone who knows John will understand how absurd it is to believe he was involved in any kind of espionage activity. He is a traffic officer serving in Cambridge and was there to help train the Kosovan police."

Philip Pragnell, DS Pragnell's brother, said: "He was [in Montenegro] as a tourist - it is absurd to suggest he was on some kind of spying mission."

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