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Kosovo Albanian Men Reach Macedonia

May 29, 1999

BLACE, Macedonia (AP) _ His face haggard and body covered with bruises, an ethnic Albanian released this week from a Serb jail described being tortured and starved during his monthlong imprisonment.

The number of Kosovo refugees crossing into Macedonia has decreased recently to just a few hundred daily after last weekend’s increased exodus of 30,000.

But among the smaller groups of refugees were 61 prisoners who reached the Blace border crossing Wednesday _ the first such prisoners to arrive in Macedonia.

In an interview late Friday, Aziz Maksuit said Serb paramilitary police broke down the door while he was playing chess with a friend in his apartment in Pristina, Kosovo’s provincial capital. He said the attack came about a week after NATO bombing began March 24.

The police kicked his 7-year-old daughter, breaking her hand, and took him to the local police station, he said. Accusing him of being a member of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army _ something Maksuit denies _ the police made him strip naked and lie face down on a table.

He said they slowly beat his entire body with a metal baton, starting with the soles of his feet, then turned him over and beat the top of his body.

That night, they took him to an ethnic Albanian graveyard where they showed him a pile of bodies covered with blankets, he said. They held a gun to his throat and pulled the trigger, but the gun was not loaded.

``They told me, ’It’s too early for you to die,‴ Maksuit said, sitting by a tent in a camp near the border. His clothes were filthy, the same ones he was wearing when he was arrested. When he pulled up his pant leg, his foot and leg were green with healing bruises.

Maksuit said he was taken the next day with a group of ethnic Albanian men to a prison in the town of Lipljane, 12 miles south of Pristina.

About 25 guards were lined up outside the prison entrance, and each of them hit the prisoners as they passed by, he said. The men were given small amounts of beans, salt and water, and were beaten daily, he said.

Similar stories of abuse were related by many of the 2,000 men who arrived in Albania last week after being detained at the Smrekovnice prison near Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Kosovo.

It is unclear why the men were released, and Yugoslav officials have not responded publicly to the prisoners’ allegations.

For now, Maksuit and the others are waiting at the Blace camp for transfer to one of Macedonia’s seven larger camps. Maksuit says aid workers gave the prisoners their choice of which camp to go to, as some are cleaner and better equipped.

Maksuit’s wife and daughter are still in Pristina, and he said he must find a way to get them to Macedonia before he can leave for a third country.

U.N. refugee agency spokesman Ron Redmond said 200 refugees crossed the border Friday, with no new arrivals by noon Saturday.

Update hourly