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Serbian journalist freed, but may still face charges

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 12 May 2000 CPJ press release:

New York, May 12, 2000 --- A leading Serbian journalist who was arrested May 8 and charged with espionage three days later in a military court has been released, according to news reports and CPJ sources in Belgrade. The military charges against Miroslav Filipovic have been dropped, according to his lawyer, but the journalist could still face criminal charges in a civilian court for "spreading false information."

Filipovic is a correspondent for the independent Belgrade daily Danas, and a regular contributor to Agence France-Presse and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). His arrest seems to have been prompted by recent articles for the IWPR that contained explosive accounts of the actions of Yugoslav security forces, including atrocities committed by Serb soldiers against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Military authorities in the southern town of Nis decided not to proceed with the investigation because they were unable to collect sufficient evidence of espionage within the 48 hours stipulated by Serbian law. According to Filipovic's lawyer, Milan Nikolic, his client could still face criminal charges in the central Serbian city of Kraljevo, where Filipovic was arrested at his home earlier this week.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment, but sources familiar with the case said it was more likely that a fine would be imposed.

Upon his release, Filipovic reportedly said there were no grounds for charging him with espionage, according to CPJ sources in Belgrade who are in touch with the journalist's family. "A person who spies is hardly likely to write articles and sign them with his own name," Filipovic added.

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