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Baby Born in Prison Spends First Day in Freedom After 16 Months

January 29, 1996

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Usually babies cry when strangers gather around them, but this 16-month-old was stunned silent. After all, it was his first day out of jail.

Damir Ferhatbegovic was prisoner No. 8 on the last bus carrying prisoners of war the Serbs freed on Sunday in the Sarajevo region. He was a ``short-timer″ compared to his mom and dad, who met in a Serb prison camp in the eastern town of Vlasenica.

The baby’s mother, Ifeta Bajramovic, 22, was taken prisoner in 1993 while working in a field near Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia. She soon met 26-year-old Almir Ferhatbegovic, captured in May 1992.

The two courted in a common cell. After discovering she was pregnant, Ifeta confided in a visiting delegate of the international Red Cross. The delegate spoke to prison officials, who let Ifeta give birth in the Vlasenica hospital. After three months, mother and child were returned to the cell.

The baby’s parents were outside frequently on forced labor detail. But Damir never saw the outside world. He was left in the care of a wounded prisoner.

The new family was all smiles as they emerged from the bus Sunday evening, despite an uncertain future. They and hundreds of others have been freed under the U.S.-brokered peace plan for Bosnia, which mandates the unconditional release of all war prisoners.

With no friends or relations in Sarajevo, the three will spend at least their first few free nights in a refugee camp. Then, the couple hopes to go to Tuzla where Almir’s parents live and where they’ll worry about what to do next.

Fresh off the bus, little Damir looked quietly from his mother’s arms, seemingly taking in everything with eyes as big as saucers under his woolen cap as he sucked on his pacifier.

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