Washington, 3 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. State Department has condemned a Serbian court's conviction of 20 ethnic Albanians accused of terrorism.
State Department spokesman John Dinger said yesterday the trial, which ended Saturday, was marred by what he called "serious judicial irregularities" and did not meet contemporary judicial standards, including those set by Serbia's constitution.
He said U.S. officials and other observers were present in the Kosovo provincial capital Pristina from the beginning of court proceedings on May 19.
Among their concerns, Dinger listed the judge's refusal to allow relevant interventions by the defense to be entered into the official court record. He said the defendants also were frequently denied access to their attorneys.
The ethnic Albanians were convicted of belonging to a terrorist organization and of plotting an armed rebellion against Serbian authorities who control Kosovo province. Police arrested the group in January and said they had also seized weapons and plans of military establishments.
Ethnic Albanians, who form an overwhelming majority in Kosovo, have long pressed for more independence from their Serbian rulers. Belgrade stripped Kosovo of its autonomous status in 1989.