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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 4, No. 80, 00-04-21

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 4, No. 80, 21 April 2000


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] TRIAL OF FUGITIVE ARMENIAN MINISTER ADJOURNED
  • [02] AZERBAIJAN'S FOREIGN MINISTRY CONDEMNS PLANNED KARABAKH POLL
  • [03] EU CRITICIZES CONDUCT OF GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
  • [04] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES AMNESTY FOR POLITICAL OPPONENTS
  • [05] AMNESTIED PARAMILITARY LEADER TO CLAIM DAMAGES
  • [06] GEORGIA, RUSSIA FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON VISAS
  • [07] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SAYS MEDIA LACK OBJECTIVITY
  • [08] KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER REJECTS CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS
  • [09] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION HOLDS UNSANCTIONED DEMONSTRATION
  • [10] TAJIK EX-PREMIER CALLS FOR DIALOGUE WITH LEADERSHIP
  • [11] UZBEK, KAZAKH PRESIDENTS MEET

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [12] BAJUK FALLS SHORT IN SLOVENIAN VOTE
  • [13] CROATIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF QUITS
  • [14] TUDJMAN AIDE DENIES CHARGES IN 'VECERNJI LIST' AFFAIR
  • [15] HAGUE PREPARING BIGGER THINGS FOR CROATIA?
  • [16] FINAL RESULTS IN BOSNIAN VOTE CONFIRMS NATIONALIST STRENGTH
  • [17] HDZ PURGE IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
  • [18] SERBIAN REGIME CONTINUES TO HARASS OPPONENTS
  • [19] DEMONSTRATIONS FOR KOSOVA ACTIVIST BROVINA
  • [20] SERBIAN PRESIDENT LEAVES HOSPITAL
  • [21] AN OLIVE BRANCH FROM DJUKANOVIC TO BELGRADE?
  • [22] MONTENEGRIN LEGISLATURE APPROVES PRIVATIZATION PLANS
  • [23] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES MILITARY STRATEGY
  • [24] ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE DENIES PACEPA 'RE-ACTIVATED'
  • [25] ROMANIAN INDUSTRIAL MAMMOTH TO BE PRIVATIZED
  • [26] UN REPORT SAYS ROMANIAN POLLUTION DUE TO FAULTY DESIGN,
  • [27] MOLDOVAN STUDENTS 'SUSPEND' STRIKE, DEMONSTRATIONS
  • [28] WORLD BANK FOLLOWS IMF ON MOLDOVA
  • [29] BULGARIAN PREMIER ADMITS 'MISTAKES' IN STRUGGLE AGAINST

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [30] Former Slovak Premier Arrested, Released

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] TRIAL OF FUGITIVE ARMENIAN MINISTER ADJOURNED

    A Yerevan

    district court on 20 April suspended the ongoing trial of

    former Interior Minister Vano Siradeghian, RFE/RL's Yerevan

    bureau reported. Siradeghian, who is accused of ordering

    several contract killings in the mid-1990s, is believed to

    have fled the country early this month after a court ruled

    that he be taken into custody for the remaining duration of

    the trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 7 April 2000). At the

    same time, the court separated Siradeghian's case from that

    of 11 co-defendants charged with plotting or committing

    murder at his behest. LF

    [02] AZERBAIJAN'S FOREIGN MINISTRY CONDEMNS PLANNED KARABAKH POLL

    In a statement issued in Baku on 20 April, Azerbaijan's

    Foreign Ministry charged that the planned 18 June

    parliamentary elections in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh

    Republic constitute "a crude violation of Azerbaijan's

    territorial integrity," and "another attempt on the part of

    the Armenian separatists to legitimize the occupation of...an

    inseparable part of Azerbaijan," Interfax reported. The

    statement said that fair elections in Karabakh can be held

    only on the basis of proposals put forward by the OSCE Minsk

    Group, and only after a solution of the conflict and the

    repatriation to Karabakh of ethnic-Azerbaijani displaced

    persons. Also on 20 April, NKR parliament chairman Oleg

    Yesaian rejected as "completely groundless" an 18 April

    statement by Azerbaijan's Central Electoral Commission

    arguing that the planned poll violates Azerbaijan's

    territorial integrity and creates new obstacles to a peaceful

    settlement of the Karabakh conflict. LF

    [03] EU CRITICIZES CONDUCT OF GEORGIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

    The

    EU on 20 April expressed "regret" that the 9 April Georgian

    presidential poll, in which incumbent President Eduard

    Shevardnadze was re-elected for a second five-year term, "did

    not take place in accordance with the commitments given by

    Georgia as a participating state of the OSCE and the Council

    of Europe," Reuters reported. It specifically deplored

    "serious irregularities," including ballot stuffing, media

    bias, and lack of transparency in the vote count. The OSCE

    observer mission noted similar procedural violations (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2000). The EU nonetheless

    extended congratulations to Shevardnadze on his re-election

    and expressed the hope that his tenure in office will

    contribute to the stability and the furthering of political,

    economic, and judicial reforms, with a view to establishing a

    democratic and market-oriented society in Georgia," the

    statement said. LF

    [04] GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES AMNESTY FOR POLITICAL OPPONENTS

    In his first address to parliament since his re-election,

    President Shevardnadze announced on 20 April an amnesty for

    279 prisoners, including 69 supporters of former President

    Zviad Gamsakhurdia and members of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary

    found guilty of the car bomb attack on Shevardnadze in August

    1995. It had been widely rumored during the runup to the

    presidential poll that he would do so. Shevardnadze also

    called, as he had done in the summer of 1992, for "national

    reconciliation," Reuters reported. In a unanimous vote,

    deputies also adopted a resolution designating Gamsakhurdia's

    ouster in January 1992 as "the illegal overthrow of [the

    country's] legitimately elected authorities." LF

    [05] AMNESTIED PARAMILITARY LEADER TO CLAIM DAMAGES

    Mkhedrioni

    leader Djaba Ioseliani, who played a key role in

    Gamsakhurdia's ouster, said on 20 April that he will demand

    $2 million in compensation from the Georgian authorities for

    his trial and imprisonment, Caucasus Press reported.

    Ioseliani, who is 72, was arrested in November 1995 while he

    still theoretically had immunity as a parliament deputy. He

    was sentenced in 1998 to 11 years' imprisonment for his

    alleged role in masterminding the 1995 attempt to assassinate

    Shevardnadze (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 1998). His

    request last year for clemency on the grounds of ill health

    was rejected (see "RFE./RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 24,

    17 June 1999). LF

    [06] GEORGIA, RUSSIA FAIL TO REACH AGREEMENT ON VISAS

    Georgian

    and Russian working groups held consultations in Tbilisi on

    18-19 April, but failed to reach any concrete agreement on

    the introduction of visas for citizens of the two countries,

    Caucasus Press reported. The talks focused on whether

    Moscow's insistence on visas for Georgian citizens violates

    the CIS agreement on visa-free travel; on the visa regime for

    Russian military servicemen stationed in Georgia; and the

    regime of visas for residents of conflict zones and the legal

    status of refugees from Georgia in Russia and from Russia in

    Georgia, according to ITAR-TASS. Georgia considers the

    introduction of visas "inexpedient," while Moscow is

    reportedly insisting upon it, according to Interfax. Then

    Russian Premier Vladimir Putin proposed introducing a visa

    regime for Georgia and Azerbaijan in November 1999 in order

    to prevent Chechen fighters entering the Russian Federation

    from those countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 November

    1999). LF

    [07] KAZAKHSTAN'S PRESIDENT SAYS MEDIA LACK OBJECTIVITY

    Addressing a conference on crime held in Astana on 19 April,

    Nursultan Nazarbaev accused the media in Kazakhstan of

    depicting the situation in the country as far worse than in

    really is, and of exacerbating interethnic tensions, Reuters

    and Interfax reported the following day. Nazarbaev said that

    freedom of the press is sacrosanct, but warned that the right

    to freedom of speech "must not be turned into an instrument

    for settling personal scores, misinforming society, and

    discrediting the state." He called for an investigation into

    the ownership and financing of individual media outlets,

    which, he suggested, could reveal "interesting" connections

    with unspecified hostile organizations abroad. LF

    [08] KAZAKHSTAN'S PREMIER REJECTS CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

    A

    spokesman for Qasymzhomart Toqaev on 20 April rejected

    allegations of corruption leveled against the premier by

    parliament deputies, Reuters reported. He denied that Toqaev,

    who served for five years as foreign minister before being

    appointed premier last October, has any connections with

    business circles either in Kazakhstan or abroad. Toqaev's

    dismissal had been rumored two months ago (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 9 February 2000). LF

    [09] KYRGYZ OPPOSITION HOLDS UNSANCTIONED DEMONSTRATION

    Some 700

    supporters of opposition Ar-Namys party chairman Feliks Kulov

    staged a demonstration in Bishkek on 20 April to demand his

    release, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. They

    also called for the annulment of the 12 March parliamentary

    runoffs in Kara-Buura, where Kulov was defeated, and in

    Issyk-Kul. Meanwhile opposition representatives have agreed

    to convene a roundtable discussion under the aegis of the

    OSCE to discuss internationally accepted norms for the

    conduct of the presidential elections to be held later this

    year. The roundtable will take place before 5 May, but the

    opposition has not yet decided whether to invite President

    Askar Akaev to attend. Akaev, for his part, told participants

    in a media conference on 20 April that his administration

    will hold a round table with the opposition in the next two

    weeks. The opposition had earlier refused to participate in

    such a gathering unless it was held under OSCE aegis. LF

    [10] TAJIK EX-PREMIER CALLS FOR DIALOGUE WITH LEADERSHIP

    Opposition "One Tajikistan" party leader Abdumalik

    Abdulladjonov, who is believed to be in exile in Uzbekistan,

    has addressed an appeal to the heads of the Central Asian

    Union states on the eve of their Tashkent summit to

    facilitate a dialogue between the Tajik leadership and exiled

    opposition figures, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20

    April. Abdulladjonov said such a dialogue should focus on

    ways to enable opposition members to return to Tajikistan and

    participate in building a civil society there. LF

    [11] UZBEK, KAZAKH PRESIDENTS MEET

    Islam Karimov and Nursultan

    Nazarbaev met in Tashkent on 20 April on the sidelines of the

    Central Asian summit to discuss bilateral relations and

    regional security issues, Interfax reported. Government

    delegations from the two countries met simultaneously to

    discuss economic cooperation. LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [12] BAJUK FALLS SHORT IN SLOVENIAN VOTE

    Andrej Bajuk, who is the

    center-right candidate to become prime minister, received 44

    out of 90 possible votes in the Slovenian parliament on 20

    April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2000). Since he fell

    short of the necessary 46-vote minimum, his supporters said

    they will select a different candidate for a second round.

    Should no one gain a majority in that vote, a third round

    will take place in which only a simple majority of

    legislators is necessary to select a prime minister. Center-

    right leaders are confident that they can win in the third

    round, Reuters reported. A spokesman for the Liberal Party of

    outgoing Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek said, however, that

    those legislators who did not vote for Bajuk favor early

    elections, AP reported. President Milan Kucan also wants an

    early ballot in order to provide a government with a clear

    mandate. PM

    [13] CROATIAN INTELLIGENCE CHIEF QUITS

    Ozren Zunec, who heads one

    of Croatia's key intelligence services (HIS), resigned on 20

    April after complaining that appointees of President Stipe

    Mesic are interfering with his work (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"

    12 April 2000). He stressed that Mesic's people are blocking

    his attempts to institute necessary reforms in the HIS,

    "Globus" reported on 14 April. The dispute reflects a deeper

    conflict between Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan over

    the powers of the president and the control of the

    intelligence agencies. Racan believes that the government

    must control the services. Mesic holds that the president

    must ensure that the agencies remain independent of the

    government. Under late President Franjo Tudjman, some

    elements in the governing Croatian Democratic Community used

    the intelligence services against their political rivals. PM

    [14] TUDJMAN AIDE DENIES CHARGES IN 'VECERNJI LIST' AFFAIR

    Ivic

    Pasalic, who was chief domestic affairs adviser to President

    Tudjman, told "Slobodna Dalmacija" of 21 April that Mesic is

    trying to subject him to a "public lynching" (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 19 and 20 April 2000). Pasalic denied having ever

    discussed with Tudjman the sale of "Vecernji list," which is

    the daily with the largest circulation in Croatia. He

    stressed that any charges to the contrary are a

    "fabrication." Referring to an alleged recording of Tudjman

    and Pasalic discussing the sale of the newspaper--which Mesic

    said he found in Tudjman's offices--Pasalic said that

    Tudjman's recordings are private property and that their

    publication or use by others is illegal. PM

    [15] HAGUE PREPARING BIGGER THINGS FOR CROATIA?

    "Slobodna

    Dalmacija" of 21 April quoted Paul Risley, who is a spokesman

    for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, as saying that the

    ongoing exhumations at Gospic are "only the beginning" of the

    court's investigations of war crimes committed in Croatia

    against ethnic Serbs and others (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18

    April 2000). The tribunal will give priority to finding

    evidence about atrocities that were systematically planned

    with the involvement of the central authorities, the paper

    added. Elsewhere, Mesic said that recent protests by war

    veterans against the Gospic exhumations were much smaller

    than the organizers had hoped for. He argued that the poor

    turnout showed that the opponents of war crimes

    investigations are a spent force and that most Croats want to

    discover the truth. PM

    [16] FINAL RESULTS IN BOSNIAN VOTE CONFIRMS NATIONALIST STRENGTH

    A spokeswoman for the OSCE's election commission said in

    Sarajevo that the outcome of the 8 April local and municipal

    elections "reflected an increased plurality throughout

    Bosnia-Herzegovina," Reuters reported. She apparently sought

    to draw attention to the fact that the multiethnic Social

    Democrats won in 15 municipalities, up from only one in the

    previous vote. The Social Democrats did particularly well in

    Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Gorazde. But elsewhere, the nationalist

    parties remain firmly in control. Radovan Karadzic's Serbian

    Democratic Party won in 49 municipalities, while the Croatian

    Democratic Community (HDZ) took 25. The Muslim Party of

    Democratic Action won in 23 by itself and in 11 more in

    coalition with the more moderate Party for Bosnia-

    Herzegovina. PM

    [17] HDZ PURGE IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

    In Mostar on 20 April, HDZ

    party chairman Marko Tokic announced the sackings of several

    local HDZ officials in areas such as Siroki Brijeg and

    Mostar, where many voters stayed away from the polls on 8

    April. Tokic suggested that several thousand people who had

    voted for the HDZ in previous elections did not vote this

    time in order to show displeasure with officials "who misused

    their positions," Hina reported. He said that many unnamed

    officials at higher levels will also lose their posts soon.

    Since the routing of the HDZ in the Croatian elections

    earlier this year and the party's subsequent split, the

    Herzegovinian HDZ has begun to prepare for a future without

    the active support from Zagreb that it enjoyed in the past.

    PM

    [18] SERBIAN REGIME CONTINUES TO HARASS OPPONENTS

    A Belgrade

    court on 20 April conducted a hearing in the libel suit

    brought by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Milovan Bojic

    against Alliance for Change leader Milan Protic, "Danas"

    reported. Elsewhere, officials of the mass-circulation

    private daily "Blic" said that they will help the private

    Beta news agency pay its fine in a gesture of solidarity (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April 2000). Finally, former General

    Momcilo Perisic, who heads the small Movement for Democratic

    Serbia, called for mass meetings in towns and cities across

    Serbia that would constitute a "referendum" on behalf of

    early elections and against the regime. PM

    [19] DEMONSTRATIONS FOR KOSOVA ACTIVIST BROVINA

    Protests took

    place in Prishtina and Belgrade on 20 April to demand freedom

    for imprisoned Kosovar poet and rights activist Flora

    Brovina, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 9 November 1999). PM

    [20] SERBIAN PRESIDENT LEAVES HOSPITAL

    Milan Milutinovic left a

    Belgrade hospital on 21 April, Tanjug reported. Independent

    media recently noted that he had a triple-bypass operation on

    10 April and was originally scheduled to leave the hospital

    some time ago. The Hague-based war crimes tribunal indicted

    him in May 1999 along with Yugoslav President Slobodan

    Milosevic and three other top Belgrade leaders in conjunction

    with atrocities committed in Kosova. Persistent but

    unconfirmed reports have suggested that he has meanwhile had

    a falling-out with Milosevic and has spent at least some time

    under house arrest. The regime media have denied such

    reports. PM

    [21] AN OLIVE BRANCH FROM DJUKANOVIC TO BELGRADE?

    Montenegrin

    President Milo Djukanovic said in Podgorica on 20 April that

    he has not been to Belgrade since early 1999 because the

    authorities there showed no serious interest in discussing

    the future of the federation. He stressed, however, that he

    would be willing to go to Belgrade if there were a political

    reason to do so. He is fully aware of "all the dangers that

    such a move would involve," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service

    reported. PM

    [22] MONTENEGRIN LEGISLATURE APPROVES PRIVATIZATION PLANS

    The

    parliament in Podgorica voted on 20 April to proceed with the

    voucher privatization of some 242 firms in the course of

    2000. Among those companies affected are Telekom,

    Elektroprivreda, Montenegrin Railways, and the Port of Bar.

    The legislature is still debating a separate proposal to set

    up a committee to oversee the privatization process (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2000). PM

    [23] ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES MILITARY STRATEGY

    The cabinet

    on 20 April decided to raise military spending from $710

    million in 2000 to $1.19 billion by 2006 as part of Romania's

    NATO accession quest, Reuters reported. The decision is part

    of the military strategy endorsed at the meeting. The

    strategy provides for reductions of armed forces personnel

    from 180,000 at present to 112,000 troops and 28,000 civilian

    employees by 2000. It still has to be approved by the

    parliament before becoming law. MS

    [24] ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE DENIES PACEPA 'RE-ACTIVATED'

    Horia Vasioiu, chief of Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service

    (SIE) told the parliamentary commission overseeing the

    activities of the service on 20 April that a general recently

    re-integrated in the service by presidential decree is not

    Ion Mihai Pacepa (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April 2000).

    Vasioiu told the commission that general Pacepa, now 72,

    cannot be re-integrated, since the law mandates a maximum age

    of 64 for those in service. He also said opposition leader

    Adrian Nastase had "unfortunately done a great disservice to

    SIE" by spreading "press speculations." The commission,

    however, decided to summon SIE chief Catalin Harnagea for

    further clarifications. Opposition members on the commission

    said Vasioiu had been unable to confirm that Pacepa is not

    working for SIE "as a civilian," Mediafax reported. MS

    [25] ROMANIAN INDUSTRIAL MAMMOTH TO BE PRIVATIZED

    Prime Minister

    Mugur Isarescu on 20 April told a meeting of the cabinet that

    the huge communist-era steel maker SIDEX is in a "very

    difficult financial situation" due to both its debt and

    "management errors" and that the government must "make a

    political decision" that would make possible the

    privatization of the giant as early as possible, RFE/RL's

    Bucharest bureau reported. State Property Fund chief Radu

    Sarbu told the cabinet that SIDEX, which now employs some

    28,000 workers, owed some $1 billion at the end of 1999. He

    said that two foreign companies have expressed an interest in

    SIDEX's privatization and that the "optimist" outlook is for

    the company to be privatized by September 2000, while the

    "pessimist" one is to conclude the deal by spring 2001. MS

    [26] UN REPORT SAYS ROMANIAN POLLUTION DUE TO FAULTY DESIGN,

    WEATHER CONDITIONS

    A UN Environment Program report says the

    January spill of cyanide from the Aurul gold mine in Romania

    that polluted the Tisa and Danube rivers was due to "a

    combination of inherent design deficiencies in the industrial

    process involved, inadequate operating conditions, and bad

    weather," Reuters reported on 20 April. The report also

    warned of possible "chronic health impacts" from the spill,

    in view of the fact that it occurred in an area "already

    contaminated with heavy metals due to a long history of

    mining and metal processing." It said that the region's

    "large number of poorly maintained and operated plants and

    flotation ponds containing dangerous substances--many of

    which continue to leak--are the source of a chronic pollution

    problem." MS

    [27] MOLDOVAN STUDENTS 'SUSPEND' STRIKE, DEMONSTRATIONS

    Students

    in Chisinau on 20 April decided to "suspend" their protest

    demonstrations and strike while delegating a few

    representatives to continue negotiations with the

    authorities. They said the demonstrations will resume on 24

    April if their demands are not met by then, RFE/RL's Chisinau

    bureau reported. Among those demands are the nullification of

    fines imposed on students detained during the demonstrations,

    the abrogation of an April 1999 government decision to reduce

    the number of scholarships, and a 50 percent cut in fees paid

    by students for interurban public transportation. Meanwhile,

    the authorities announced that 149 persons were detained

    during the violent three days of demonstrations. All of those

    arrested were released except for two who have previous

    criminal records. MS

    [28] WORLD BANK FOLLOWS IMF ON MOLDOVA

    The World Bank on 20 April

    "suspended" delivery of a second $20 million tranche from a

    structural adjustment loan, Infotag reported. The bank's

    Chisinau representative, Carlos Elbirt, said Moldova has

    failed to meet some of the conditions linked to the loan,

    above all the privatization of its wine and tobacco

    industries. Also on 20 April, the international rating agency

    Moody's downgraded Moldova's foreign currency country ceiling

    for bonds and the rating for a $75 million Eurobond due to

    mature in 2002, from B2 to B3. MS

    [29] BULGARIAN PREMIER ADMITS 'MISTAKES' IN STRUGGLE AGAINST

    CORRUPTION

    Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, speaking on national

    television on 20 April amid the growing scandal on corruption

    among his party and government officials (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 20 April 2000), said "I know that I have made

    mistakes, but I also know that you [i.e. the people] will

    forgive me." Kostov said he does not intend to "drop my

    responsibilities as prime minister" and resign, AP reported.

    He denied that his Union of Democratic Forces is about to

    split and cause a governmental crisis, but spoke of "evident

    errors" having been made in local and central administration

    and of "insolence in our ranks." A poll recently conducted by

    Gallup International shows that 52 percent of Bulgarians do

    not trust the government--more than double the 25 percent

    figure of May 1997. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [30] Former Slovak Premier Arrested, Released

    By Jolyon Naegele

    Former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar had resisted

    efforts by Slovak authorities to question him for months,

    repeatedly refusing to accept a subpoena. On 20 April,

    members of a masked special police unit used explosives to

    gain entry to Meciar's villa in the western Slovak spa town

    of Trencianske Teplice. Meciar, who was expecting the arrest,

    had invited Slovak TV reporters to record the event from

    inside the villa.

    "The police, to violate my freedom, have to find some

    way of getting in here. It is for them to decide what means

    to use. As for me, I don't expect I'll attack the police, but

    if they try to take me away, I'll resist."

    In the end, Meciar surrendered without a struggle and

    was taken in a convoy of 10 vehicles to Bratislava for

    questioning.

    The chief investigator, Interior Ministry General

    Jaroslav Ivor, says Meciar has been charged with abuse of

    power and fraud for having made illegal payments to members

    of his cabinet despite repeated warnings by Slovakia's

    Supreme auditing office.

    Meciar had not left his villa, a former trade union

    hotel, since March 26, when police tried but failed to serve

    him a summons after a television debate with Prime Minister

    Mikulas Dzurinda in Bratislava.

    That summons was to answer questions in connection with

    the 1995 abduction to Austria of the son of then-President

    Michal Kovac.

    Ivor says Meciar is also suspected of having committed

    "sabotage" in connection with a secret annual report in 1995

    of the Slovak Intelligence Service, or SIS.

    For his part, Dzurinda says police did not consult with

    him before picking up Meciar. He says the law must be applied

    equally to all regardless of position or party affiliation.

    Meciar's populist party, the Movement for a Democratic

    Slovakia, or HZDS, has issued a statement saying Meciar's

    detention is an unprecedented, illegal act that "confirms

    [that] the Slovak Republic has become a police state with

    elements of state terror."

    The deputy chairman of the Party of the Democratic Left,

    Peter Weiss, rejects the HZDS reaction as "inappropriate."

    In recent days, Meciar has said that if he were detained

    he would not answer investigators' questions. He has insisted

    the investigation into the Kovac abduction is illegal and

    unconstitutional.

    Meciar, while serving as interim head of state,

    amnestied those who were allegedly involved in the abduction.

    Dzurinda subsequently repealed those amnesties, a move that

    Meciar rejected. The Slovak Constitutional Court has also

    ruled that repealing amnesties is unconstitutional.

    Nevertheless, Slovak authorities have continued to

    investigate Meciar and his former secret police chief.

    Meciar remains simultaneously the most popular and the

    most unpopular politician in Slovakia. Slovaks either love

    him or hate him. His populist opposition party HZDS continues

    to lead in the opinion polls.

    Since losing parliamentary elections in September 1998

    and presidential elections last year, Meciar has largely

    remained out of the public eye. However, in recent weeks, he

    has launched a petition campaign to force early elections, a

    move that does not guarantee him a fourth return to office

    but does put him back in the public eye. So does getting

    detained in one's own home.

    21-04-00


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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