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Kosovo women's leader on trial for terrorism

THE TRIAL began in Serbia yesterday of a Kosovo Albanian woman doctor charged with separatism and terrorism.

Flora Brovina, 50, is one of the most prominent of about 2,000 people who were arrested in Kosovo before and during Nato's air strikes and are known to be still in prison. The doctor was arrested outside her flat in Pristina, Kosovo'scapital, during the air strikes in April. She and many of her fellow prisoners were transferred to jails in Serbia two days before Yugoslav troops were forced out of Kosovo.

Dr Brovina has denied all the charges against her, describing the Albanian Women's League she founded in 1992 as an apolitical organisation devoted to education and health. "I am accused of things that have nothing to do with me," she told the court in the Serbian city of Nis. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The prosecutor alleged that Dr Brovina had hosted meetings of the Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla movement. He also accused her of forming a KLA unit and making uniforms for the rebels.

"If you're anti-war, you can't be a terrorist," Dr Brovina retorted, referring to peace demonstrations she had helped to organise. She also said that none of her family had ever been in the KLA. Dr Brovina admitted she had distributed medicines and food and said she had received requests for help from some men and some items which she was asked to sew into uniforms. "I firmly refused, because I did not want to get involved in that."

After a three-hour session, Judge Marina Milanovic postponed the trial until 25 November to allow the prosecutor to call a witness to testify on medicines found at a humanitarian organisation Dr Brovina was involved in running.

Dr Brovina's lawyer, Zika Jokanovic, a Serb from Kosovo, said the prosecution had produced no concrete evidence to support the charges. "It's too early to say what the decision will be," he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has a list of 2,000 Kosovo Albanian prisoners provided by Serbiaand has visited most of them. Relatives say there could be thousands more in prison.

On Wednesday James Rubin, the US State Department spokesman, accused Serbia of mistreating the prisoners.