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Yugoslavia Frees Two Germans

May 11, 1999

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The Yugoslav government freed two German citizens _ a journalist and a student _ on Tuesday after holding them captive for about a month on spying charges, the German Foreign Ministry said.

It was not clear what prompted the releases. But they followed several moves indicating President Slobodan Milosevic might be willing to compromise to end NATO’s air campaign against Yugoslavia. On May 2, Milosevic freed three U.S. soldiers after holding them for a month.

The Germans released were Hans Peter Schnitzler, 56, southeastern Europe correspondent for the SAT-1 television network in Berlin, and Bodo Weber, a student.

Schnitzler was detained by Yugoslav military police on his way out of the country on April 16. Weber was arrested in early April.

The Germans were handed over to the Japanese Embassy in Belgrade. Germany is part of the NATO alliance, and the Japanese have been representing German interests in Yugoslavia since the NATO airstrikes began March 24.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in a statement that the espionage charges against the two Germans were ``unfounded.″ He thanked Japan for helping secure their release.

Joerg Howe, editor in chief at SAT-1, said he had not spoken to Schnitzler, but that he would be transferred to Germany as soon as possible.

``We are very glad that he has been released, but we have to be sure first that he gets out safely,″ he said.

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