Police Scatter Kosovo Demonstration; European Mission Thwarted
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Police swinging clubs and firing tear gas quickly dispersed a demonstration Wednesday night by about 1,000 ethnic Albanian students in the capital of restive Kosovo province.
The police, carrying machine guns and wearing riot gear, charged protesters who had shouted ″Freedom 3/8 Freedom 3/8″ and demonstrated for two hours against what they said was harassment of ethnic Albanians by Yugoslav authorities.
The demonstration was held in front of the downtown university dormitory, and the rally and dispersal were witnessed by an Associated Press reporter.
Officers moved in at about 10:30 p.m. after a brief warning to the demonstrators to disperse. Police launched tear gas canisters and charged the protesters with truncheons.
Demonstrators ran in panic inside dormitory buildings. Windows and glass doors were shattered in the shuffle.
Several protesters were seen being taken away in police vans after the action.
However, no one appeared to have been seriously injured and the police action took about five minutes.
This was the second day of protest against constitutional changes passed in March that gave greater control over this Albanian-dominated region to Serbia, of which Kosovo has been an autonomous province.
On Tuesday about 2,000 demonstrators, demanding to see a visiting European Parliament’s delegation, probing alleged human rights violations in Kosovo, dispersed peacefully.
In Belgrade, Yugoslav Premier Ante Markovic on Wednesday told the delegation it would be allowed to meet prominent ethnic Albanian dissidents.
″We were not able to fulfill our task in Kosovo because we were not given the opportunity to meet with people from the other side,″ Danish member Frode Kristoffersen said after the delegation cut short its visit to Kosovo.
The five-member delegation arrived in Pristina on Tuesday during a new outbreak of unrest in which one ethnic Albanian died in nearby Podujevo.
Martine Charriot-Schneider, secretary of the mission, said the group had planned to stay in Kosovo ″for three full days, but we are leaving after 13 hours.″
″We are quite disappointed because the talks with ethnic Albanian intellectuals and other members of the opposition were absolutely necessary,″ Lilo Seibel-Emmeling, a West German member, said.
About 85 percent of Kosovo’s 1.8 million people are ethnic Albanians. The Serbian minority complains of discrimination in the southern province, which borders on Albania and is an ancient Serbian heartland.
Giorgio Rosetti, an Italian member, said the delegation had been kept from meeting six Kosovo legislators who voted against the constitutional amendments and who he said were indicted and now are awaiting trial.
He complained that Markovic would not arrange a visit to jails housing ethnic Albanians accused of organizing demonstrations and riots in February and March.
The unrest killed at least 24 people and a state of emergency was declared in the province.
At least 60,000 ethnic Albanians took part in protests after Serbia, Yugoslavia’s largest republic, adopted the constitutional amendments providing greater control.
About 800 ethnic Albanians were arrested and 237, including former provincial Communist Party chief Azem Vllasi and other prominent politicians, businessmen and intellectuals, were detained without charge under federal emergency laws.
At least 47 are still being held in isolation around Kosovo.
Members of the European Parliament’s delegation, headed by Julian Grimaldos of Spain, said they also wanted to talk to Vllasi, who is awaiting trial.
″Even though we were officially invited by the Yugoslav government, we have a feeling they wanted to shorten our visit,″ Ms. Charriot-Schneider said. ″The conditions of the visit made us fail in doing our job.″