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Police Arrest Union Leader During Strike

October 29, 1996

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ A trade union leader running as an opposition candidate in Sunday’s parliamentary elections was detained during a walkout at a transport depot in Belgrade, union leaders said Tuesday.

Police took Dragoljub Stosic into custody Monday, and his location was unknown. Union leaders threatened a mass protest outside City Hall if he did not reappear by Wednesday.

Police measures and attacks by state-run media on Serbia’s opposition have grown increasingly strident in the run-up to Sunday’s elections for the 138-seat Yugoslav parliament.

The state news agency Tanjug carried a police statement Tuesday confirming Stosic was arrested. It accused him of organizing a protest that prevented vehicles from leaving a transport depot and damaged some buses.

But Zoran Djindjic, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said Stosic was arrested simply because he is an opposition candidate.

``Police came in full combat gear. Four of them arrested Stosic, who did not resist,″ said Zdravko Mitrovic, a union member who witnessed the arrest. Mitrovic said he was beaten on the head when he turned to see where policemen where taking Stosic.

Workers at several public transport depots in Belgrade have been on strike for a month to protest low salaries and management policy.

With public unhappiness over Yugoslavia’s economic woes widespread, the four-party opposition coalition is given its best chance yet against the ruling Socialists and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Independent opinion polls put the opposition neck-and-neck with Milosevic’s neo-Communist coalition.

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