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Bosnia war crimes suspect escapes

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia -- A Serb accused of war crimes in Bosnia has escaped from a jail in the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, Reuters has reported.

Veselin Vlahovic, a Bosnian Serb, was serving a three-year prison term for robbery when he escaped, Montenegrin police said in a statement.

He was being held in the Spuz prison, 20 kilometres (12 miles) west of the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica. Four Spuz prison guards have been detained on suspicion of aiding Vlahovic in his escape, the Beta news agency reported.

A war crimes investigation against Vlahovic began in December 1999 for his alleged "murder and torture" of Bosnian Muslims in the Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

Sarajevo authorities have demanded his extradition several times from Montenegro, Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav federation.

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The requests have been turned down on the grounds that Yugoslavia's constitution does not allow extradition of its citizens to foreign courts.

The U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague earlier gave Bosnian authorities the go-ahead for a local trial of Vlahovic, Reuters reported.

According to the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the war, former Yugoslav republics can only prosecute war crimes suspects after they receive approval from the tribunal.

The Yugoslav parliament is due to debate a draft law on Thursday that would allow war crimes suspects to be extradited to face charges at a U.N. court.

The Yugoslav government voted in favour of the law last week, but for it to become valid it must be voted through by federal parliament.

Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP) -- the junior partner in the coalition government -- said all its deputies would vote against the bill, which would allow the extradition of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, in parliament.

Montenegro is the smaller partner to dominant Serbia in their Yugoslav federation. Serbia has a population of nine million people and Montenegro just 600,000.





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