ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) _ A leading Croatian Serb politician is facing trial for publicly asserting that Croatia ran prisoner-of-war camps much like its Bosnian Serb foes.

Last week, the Croatian Attorney General charged Milovan Skoric with spreading ''false reports that disturbed the Croatian public.''

If convicted, the 39-year-old leader of Zagreb's small Serb community could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Many other Serb politicians in this Croatian capital, speaking privately, don't dispute the essence of what Skoric said.

But they criticize him for making inflammatory comments at a time Croat- Serb relations can least afford them.

Skoric could not be reached for comment.

Pictures of emaciated men, mostly Muslim, being held in camps run by Serbs in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina shocked the world last summer and prompted comparisons to Nazi concentration camps.

Croats were also found to have camps in Bosnia, where Serb civilians were held as proxies in POW swaps. Allegations of torture at Croat camps could not be proved.

Last month, Skoric, a founder of the Serbian Peoples' Party, the only legal party for Serbs in Croatia, reignited the Croat camp debate. He told a visiting Russian parliamentary delegation there were five ''concentration camps'' for Serbs in Croatia. He claimed two of the camps were still operating.

A commission of Croats and Russians visited the sites where Skoric said the camps were set up near Gospic, Pakrac and Sisak, and found nothing.

The International Committee for the Red Cross confirmed the commission's findings.

Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, a Croatian human rights activist, said the camps had existed, but not anymore.

Although no evidence was found to validate Skoric's accusations, harassment of Serbs in Croatia is believed to be widespread. Many have lost their jobs. Even Croatian police acknowledge that more than 1,000 Serb homes in Croatian areas not touched by war have been blown up since 1991.

Serbs comprised about 12 percent of Croatia's population before the war that followed Zagreb's break from Serb-led Yugoslavia. There are no reliable estimates of how many now remain.

Officials of the Serbian Peoples' Party said Skoric's comments had only served to strain already tense Croat-Serb relations.

''This is not the right time for Croatia to come out with such information in such a way,'' said Radoslav Arsenijevic, head of the newly founded Community of Serbs in Croatia, an advocacy group of which Skoric is a board member.

''First of all, one has to prove the allegation before coming out with it.''