THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal today sent a freed war crimes defendant back to jail.

Zlatko Aleksovski, a Bosnian Croat prison commandant, was convicted of war crimes last May, but released immediately because he had served out his 2 1/2-year sentence in pretrial detention.

Aleksovski, 40, risked his freedom and returned for the appeals hearing in the hope of clearing his name.

But the prosecution had also appealed, and the five-judge panel led by Richard May of Britain rejected the defense appeal in favor of the prosecution demand for a higher sentence. May said a new sentencing date would be set later.

Upon hearing the verdict, Aleksovski's face fell into his hands. Blue-suited U.N. guards came to lead him away.

``Nobody expected such a decision,'' said defense attorney Srdjan Joka. ``My client came here voluntarily.''

Joka suggested that the judges wanted to set a tougher precedent for upcoming trials of suspects on more serious offenses.

``The crimes he was supposed to have committed weren't so serious. Nobody was killed,'' he said.

The defense questioned the reliability of prosecution witnesses who claimed they were beaten in the camp. Prosecutors argued today that the 2 1/2-year original sentence was ``manifestly disproportionate'' to his crimes. The crimes carry up to life in prison, but prosecutors originally asked that he serve 10 years.

The three-judge panel that issued the original ruling on May 7 found Aleksovski guilty of participating in a Bosnian Croat campaign to drive Muslims out of the central Bosnian Lasva River Valley in 1993.

At Kaonik camp, where Aleksovski was commander, Muslim prisoners were beaten to death during interrogation sessions while others were ordered to dig trenches for Bosnian Croat forces or deployed as human shields, according to the ruling.

The Yugoslav tribunal was set up in 1993 to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities in the Balkan conflicts. The judges have convicted 13 defendants from all the major ethnic groups.