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Serb War Crimes Suspects Escape

August 4, 2000

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Three Serbs accused of genocide and war crimes escaped from a hospital in the Serb-controlled part of the northern city of Kosovska Mitrovica, a U.N. spokeswoman said Friday.

The three, who had been transferred from a U.N detention center in the city to the hospital for medical treatment, slipped out early Friday, U.N. spokeswoman Claire Trevena said.

Two of the Serbs, Dragan Jovanovic, 50, and Vlastimir Aleksic, 54, had been charged with genocide, while the third, Dragica Peica, 34, had been charged with war crimes, Trevena said.

The three, arrested in July and August 1999, had been transferred to the hospital on the advice of doctors from the NATO-led peacekeeping force and U.N. police, she said.

Jovanovic was receiving treatment for lead poisoning. The northern, industrialized Kosovo city has high levels of lead pollution due to mines in the area. Aleksic was in the hospital for high blood pressure, and Peica was being treated for kidney stones.

U.N. spokeswoman Susan Manuel said the three were detained last summer by NATO-led peacekeepers and their trials had not begun although they had been indicted. She said the three cases were not related. She said prisoners would no longer be sent to the hospital.

The United Nations offered no details on who was guarding them.

``Officers on duty at the hospital report the detainees were in bed, apparently sleeping,″ at about 1 a.m., Trevena said. ``When the room was checked sometime later, the detainees were gone.″

In previous months there have been several breakouts. In February, three Serbs and one Albanian charged with war crimes escaped from the prison. A 15-year-old Kosovo Albanian boy accused of killing a Russian KFOR soldier has broken out of jail several times. A Serb war crimes suspect escaped from Mitrovica hospital last month.

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