|Saturday, 7 December 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 88, 01-05-09
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 88, 9 May 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 PROSECUTOR CLOSER TO ACCEPTING ARMENIAN GUNMAN'S TESTIMONYDeputy Chief Military Prosecutor Artak Harutiunian told RFE/RL in Yerevan on 8 May that the prosecution no longer rejects the possibility that Nairi Hunanian, leader of the five gunmen who shot eight senior officials in the Armenian parliament on 27 October 1999, acted on his own initiative. Harutiunian said that possibility is one of "four or five" official theories of the background to the shootings. Last year, Chief Military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian repeatedly said he believes Hunanian acted at the instigation of other, still unidentified persons. Hunanian for his part has consistently denied those suggestions, most recently during testimony given on 4 May at his ongoing trial (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2001). On 7 May, Hunanian denied that the attack was originally planned for 13 October 1999, or that he had attempted to recruit journalists Tigran Nazarian and Nairi Badalian to join the conspiracy. LF
 ARMENIAN PREMIER PLEDGES RENEWED ANTICORRUPTION DRIVEAndranik Markarian reaffirmed in Yerevan on 8 May that his government "regards the fight against corruption as one of the key challenges facing the state," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Markarian was speaking at a ceremony marking the acceptance of a $300,000 World Bank grant earmarked for developing a comprehensive program to combat bribery, nepotism, and similar crimes. Markarian said that one of the main objectives of the program, which will include the enacting of legislation on the civil service, licensing, income declaration, and state procurements, is to improve the investment climate in Armenia. LF
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SAYS SIGNING OF KARABAKH PEACE ACCORD IN GENEVA UNLIKELY...Robert Kocharian told journalists in Yerevan on 7 May that his talks in Geneva next month with his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev will focus on a new Karabakh peace proposal drafted by the OSCE's Minsk Group on the basis of agreements reached between the two presidents during their talks in Key West last month, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. But Kocharian added that he does not think that a final peace agreement will be signed in Geneva. Kocharian dismissed speculation that U.S. Minsk Group co-chairman Carey Cavanaugh's 5 May talks with Aliev in Baku were aimed at a secret deal between the Minsk Group and Azerbaijan. LF
 ...AS AZERBAIJAN'S PARLIAMENT SPEAKER RULES OUT CONCESSIONS ON SHUSHA, LACHINSpeaking in Baku on 8 May, Murtuz Alesqerov said that President Aliev "will not sign a document" that violates the national interests of the Azerbaijani people, Turan reported. He further denied that Baku will make any concessions concerning the Karabakh town of Shusha or the Lachin region that lies between the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) and the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, both of which have been under Armenian control since 1992. Reuters on 4 May had reported that the new peace plan leaves the NKR formally as part of Azerbaijan but with a status tantamount to independence, and provides for the use of a transport corridor through Lachin linking the NKR with Armenia. LF
 GEORGIA HAILS RUSSIAN VISA STATEMENTSpeaking in Moscow on 8 May, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the visa requirement for Georgian citizens wishing to enter the Russian Federation is "a temporary measure" that was imposed in connection with the war in Chechnya, and that it will be lifted as soon as the ongoing "antiterrorist" operations in the North Caucasus are successfully concluded, Russian agencies reported. Unnamed Russian officials had said last week that Moscow will not lift the visa requirement for Georgian citizens that took effect on 1 January until Tbilisi abandons its policy of tolerating the presence on Georgian territory of Chechen fighters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 May 2001). In Tbilisi, Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze told Interfax on 8 May that the Georgian leadership would welcome both a Russian decision to abolish the visa requirement, and any further steps to improve bilateral relations. LF
 GEORGIAN GUERRILLAS SEIZE ANOTHER ABKHAZ HOSTAGE...The Georgian "Forest Brothers" guerrilla formation captured Abkhaz customs officer Aslan Kaslandzia on 7 May, Caucasus Press reported. The leader of the Georgian guerrilla band, Dato Shengelaia, said he intends to execute Aslandzia, who has reportedly confessed to having killed an unspecified number of Georgians and to have committed "terrorist acts." LF
 ...AS FURTHER TALKS FAIL TO SECURE RELEASE OF ALL HOSTAGESUN special representative Dieter Boden met in Sukhum on 4 May with Abkhaz Premier Vyacheslav Tsugba to discuss conditions for the release of all 13 prisoners and hostages then held by Abkhazia and by the Forest Brothers, Caucasus Press reported on 7 May (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 4, No. 17, 6 May 2001). Tsugba said that he has rejected a Georgian proposal that those being held be released on the principle of "all for all," pointing out that five Abkhaz army conscripts abducted by the Forest Brothers are hostages, while three Georgian guerrillas detained by the Abkhaz are "criminals, who must answer for their activities." Both Tsugba and Boden appealed to the Georgian leadership to comply with the protocol signed on 16 April whereby Tbilisi undertook to take all measures to secure the five conscripts' release. Boden added that a resumption of negotiations on a political solution to the Abkhaz conflict is impossible until all those currently detained are released. Speaking in Moscow on 8 May, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko denounced "any moves that increase tensions in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone," and called on both sides to show restraint and stabilize the situation, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
 GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY PRESUMED ABDUCTEDGeorgian Security officials are investigating the disappearance of parliament deputy Petre Tsiskarishvili and his girlfriend, Caucasus Press reported on 9 May. A BMW-525 belonging to Tsiskarishvili, who heads the Georgian parliament speaker's secretariat, was found abandoned on 8 May in eastern Georgia, close to the location where two Spanish businessmen were abducted late last year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 2000). Officials believe that Tsiskarishvili was likewise kidnapped, but no ransom has yet been demanded for him. LF
 KAZAKHSTAN'S CURRENCY LOSES VALUEThe value of the tenge has fallen from 145.55 to the U.S. dollar on 2 May to 146.15 to the dollar on 8 May, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. In April 1999, the tenge fell from 88 to 138.5 to the dollar before stabilizing (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7, 8 and 12 April 1999). LF
 KAZAKH COMMUNISTS CALL FOR PRE-TERM ELECTIONSArsentii Apolimov, the first secretary of the Almaty Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, told a press conference in the former capital on 8 May that pre-term elections should be held to both local councils and the Kazakh parliament, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported. He said such a poll is needed to pave the way for the return to power in Kazakhstan of the Communist Party, as happened in Moldova. Apolimov said that pensioners and World War II veterans should have their privileges restored. He also condemned as "thoughtless" President Nursultan Nazarbaev's decree transferring the administrative capital of Almaty Oblast from the city of Almaty to Taldy-Qorghan (see "RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 20 April 2001). On 4 May, Communist Party of Kazakhstan First Secretary Serikbolsyn Abdildin told journalists in Almaty that the party's office in Almaty Oblast will similarly be moved from Almaty to Taldy-Qorghan, but gave no reason for that decision. LF
 KYRGYZ PARLIAMENT CONSIDERS IMPEACHING PRESIDENT...Azimbek Beknazarov, who chairs a Kyrgyz parliament committee, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 7 May that deputies are considering the possibility of launching proceedings to impeach President Askar Akaev for having ceded Kyrgyz territory to China. Under a border agreement signed in 1999 by Akaev and Chinese President Jiang Zemin, which the Kyrgyz parliament has not yet ratified, Kyrgyzstan ceded some 9,000 hectares of land to China. Beknazarov and Ismail Isakov, who chairs the Kyrgyz parliament's committee on defense and security issues, both argue that the agreement violates the Kyrgyz Constitution and that its signing constitutes adequate grounds for Akaev's impeachment. LF
 ...AS TWO KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIANS GO ON TRIALThe separate trials opened in Bishkek on 8 May of opposition Ar-Namys party Deputy Chairman Emil Aliev and of People's Party Chairman Melis Eshimkanov, who owned the independent newspaper "Asaba," which has been declared bankrupt, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Both men are accused of organizing an unsanctioned demonstration in Bishkek on 13 April to protest the closure of "Asaba" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2001). Aliev was fined 1,000 soms (about $20), and the hearings in Eshimkanov's case adjourned until 10 May. Interfax on 8 May quoted Eshimkanov as terming the hearing "political harassment." LF
 KYRGYZ PRESIDENT, UN OFFICIAL DISCUSS AFGHANISTANAkaev met in Bishkek on 7 May with visiting UN special envoy for Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Vendrell told journalists after the talks, which focussed on both Afghanistan and the security situation in Central Asia, that the UN supports Akaev's proposal to convene an international conference on Afghanistan, but that doing so will require the consent of all warring sides. LF
 TAJIK PRESIDENT CONVENES MEETING ON CRIME, SECURITY ISSUESImomali Rakhmonov convened a meeting on 8 May with the heads of law- enforcement and security agencies, impressing on them the need for and importance of more effective and systematic actions to strengthen legality and national security and to eradicate drug-trafficking, terrorism, and extremism, Interfax and Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Rakhmonov stressed that his 30 April address to parliament, which also focussed on those issues, constitutes "a program of compulsory actions" for security and law- enforcement agencies. LF
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT FIRES GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, NAMES NEW PARLIAMENT SPEAKER...Saparmurat Niyazov has dismissed Social Welfare Minister Ilaman Shykheev for "serious shortcomings" in his work, appointing in his place for a trial period of six months trade union Chairwoman Enebay Ataeva, Interfax reported on 7 May. Niyazov also removed Defense Minister Batyr Sardzhaev from the post of cabinet head, and named 40-year-old Deputy Parliament Speaker Rashid Meredov as parliament speaker in place of Sakhat Muradov. Muradov, who held that post for nine years, has retired at the age of 69, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
 ...MEETS WITH UAE EMISSARYNiyazov met in Ashgabat on 7 May with Muhammad Ali al-Behesh, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates royal family, Russian agencies reported. The two sides agreed to postpone an official visit by Niyazov to Abu Dhabi, which was originally scheduled for last month, until the end of this year. A UAE delegation will travel to Ashgabat shortly to draft agreements on cooperation in the oil, gas, banking, and medical sectors for signing during that visit. The delegation will also discuss Turkmenistan's request for a $200 million long-term stabilization loan. Niyazov said in Ashgabat on 8 May that Turkmenistan's foreign debt currently amounts to $1.6 billion, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 MACEDONIAN ARMY POUNDS REBELSThe army hit suspected positions of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (UCK) in Vaksince from helicopter gunships and with heavy artillery, mortars, and machine guns on 8 May. Colonel Blagoje Markovski told AP that "the operation will continue until the terrorists are finally eliminated" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2001). On 9 May, troops used tanks and heavy artillery to shell "selective targets" in the northern village of Slupcane. Markovski said that the gunners are being careful to avoid places where civilians might be hiding. There have been no independent reports of casualty figures on either side. The government has called on civilians to evacuate the area and claims that the UCK is holding many civilians as human shields. The guerrillas say that the people are afraid to leave their homes and communities. PM
 MACEDONIA STILL AWAITS A GOVERNMENTPrime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said on 8 May that preparations are nearly complete for the formation of a grand coalition government that will include all major and some minor parties from both ethnic groups, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He added that the establishment of such a government will make it unnecessary to declare a "state of war" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2001). But the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) has not yet decided whether to join the government, Deutsche Welle reported. Elsewhere, UCK spokesman Commander Sokoli warned that "any government formed...without the participation of the UCK will only [see] more blood get spilled," AP reported. The Macedonian authorities refuse to talk to the UCK, whom they call "terrorists." PM
 POWELL PLEDGES PRESSURE ON SERBIA OVER WAR CRIMESSecretary of State Colin Powell told visiting Hague tribunal chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte in Washington on 8 May that the U.S. will link its support for Belgrade to Serbia's cooperation with The Hague, AP reported. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stressed that "we haven't seen enough progress in terms of Yugoslav cooperation with the tribunal to merit [fixing a date for an international] donors' conference [to aid Belgrade] at this stage." Senators Mitch McConnell and Patrick Leahy wrote to the World Bank's James Wolfensohn that "as long as war criminals remain at large, they will continue to impede the development of democracy in Serbia and threaten the political and economic stability of the entire Balkans region." Richard Dicker, who heads Human Rights Watch's international justice program, said that "cooperation with the tribunal means sending to it those who have been indicted, including [former Yugoslav President] Milosevic." Del Ponte called for "concrete pressure" from the U.S. to prompt Serbia to send Milosevic to The Hague, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. PM
 SERBIA'S KOSTUNICA HEDGES ON WAR CRIMES COOPERATION...Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who is in the U.S. to accept a private award as "statesman of the year" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2001), was to face "difficult talks" with top U.S. officials on 9 May, the BBC's Serbian Service reported. The previous day in New York, Kostunica was equivocal in his willingness to work with the tribunal, which he has called an anti-Serbian tool of U.S. foreign policy. "We are very firm about and aware of our international obligations including those with The Hague tribunal, but we need a legal frame for that cooperation at this moment... We have to cope with a Western reluctance to give us a chance to build our institutions and establish the rule of law by allowing our judiciary to implement national laws and try war-crimes suspects, among others," RFE/RL quoted him as saying. Croatian President Stipe Mesic has called Kostunica's legal arguments "words for children" and noted that Croatia quickly changed its legislation on cooperating with The Hague after the change of government in early 2000. PM
 ...CRITICIZES FERHADIJA MOSQUE RECONSTRUCTION AS 'PROVOCATION'Kostunica said in New York on 8 May that while he is "very concerned and unhappy because of the incident of violence and religious intolerance in the case of Banja Luka" on 7 May, some churches and mosques should not be rebuilt because it "might provoke these incidents," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 May 2001). During the riot, several thousand Serbs trapped some 300 Muslims and foreign officials, including the UN's Jacques Klein, in the Islamic community building. The nationalists chased a pig into the area where the 16th-century Ferhadija mosque will be reconstructed, killed the pig, and hung its head in front of the Islamic community building. The visitors were stoned and beaten, prayer rugs and an Islamic flag destroyed, and some 30 people injured. Bosnian Serb police took six hours to restore order. Ferhadija is one of 16 mosques in Banja Luka and 618 throughout Bosnia that Serbian nationalists destroyed during the 1992- 1995 war. Ferhadija and another Banja Luka mosque were both listed as UNESCO-protected cultural sites prior to the conflict. PM
 BOSNIAN MUSLIMS PROTEST MOSQUE VIOLENCEAfter the riot ended, Bosnian Serb police identified 32 persons whom they think are responsible for the violence, dpa reported from Sarajevo on 8 May. Some 10 of the suspects were arrested, but it is not clear who arrested them. Shortly after the rioting, two Muslims threw a grenade at a Serbian Orthodox church in Sanski Most, slightly damaging the building. One of the two men confessed to the crime. On 8 May, several hundred Muslims demonstrated peacefully in Sarajevo against the Banja Luka violence. As the demonstrators filed past an Orthodox church, they chanted: "We won't do anything, this church is also ours," AP reported. PM
 BANJA LUKA MUSLIMS FEAR RETURN OF WARTIME HARASSMENTA local Muslim in Banja Luka told Reuters on 8 May that "you could see the hate" in the Serbs' faces during the riot. A Muslim woman added that she feels "terrified" that the Serbs could again harass Muslims as they did during the war. A second Muslim woman said that the police could have prevented the violence had they wished to. A Serb argued that the rebuilding of Ferhadija constitutes an attempt by the international community to destabilize the Republika Srpska. A second Serb said that it is too soon after the war to rebuild the mosque. Roman Catholic Bishop Franjo Komarica, who was among those trapped by the mob, said that the stoning of the building went on continuously for six hours, "Slobodna Dalmacija" reported on 9 May. Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, who was also inside the building, said that the Republika Srpska and Banja Luka are returning to their bleak wartime reputations, "Dnevni avaz" reported. PM
 CRITICISM OF BOSNIAN SERB VIOLENCE FROM LOCAL LEADERS...Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic said that the Banja Luka violence will "seriously shake the Republika Srpska's international position," AP reported from Sarajevo on 8 May. The international community has been trying for several years to convince Bosnian Serb leaders to allow Ferhadija to be rebuilt. All three members of the joint Bosnian presidency condemned the violence. Sejfudin Tokic, who is deputy speaker of the parliament, said that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was behind the violence, Reuters reported. Mustafa Efendi Ceric, the leading Islamic cleric in Bosnia, also blamed Karadzic. He said: "Only those who have the authority, power, and money could organize something like this...and it is obvious that Radovan Karadzic still has the authority, power, and money." PM
 ...AND FROM FOREIGNERSUN spokesman Douglas Coffman said in Sarajevo on 8 May that all sides should work to break the "cycle of violence against religious sites," Reuters reported. EU Commissioner Chris Patten stressed that "EU taxpayers are spending huge sums to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the Republika Srpska. The sort of medieval behavior we saw yesterday has no place in modern Europe," AP reported. Oleg Milisic, a spokesman for High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, said that the violence is "appalling" and "indicates clearly" that the Bosnian Serb police failed to provide adequate security. Referring to Serbian charges that the reconstruction is a provocation, Milisic said that such remarks are "ridiculous." He called on the Bosnian Serb leadership to "actively support human rights and freedoms through educating people [and] confronting the events and crimes of the past." PM
 KOSTUNICA OPPOSES MAJORITY RULE FOR KOSOVAThe Yugoslav president said in New York on 8 May that "we are proposing...some sort of consensual democracy model instead of a parliamentary majority order, which would not function in the case of Kosovo, where there is an overwhelming Albanian majority and small Serbian and non-Albanian minorities," Reuters reported. After speaking to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Kostunica suggested that the Serbian minority, which makes up about 7 percent of Kosova's population, should have a legislative veto. Observers note that Serbian law does not provide for automatic parliamentary representation for the Albanians of the Presevo valley, whose parties must overcome the 5 percent electoral hurdle nationwide if they are to enter parliament. In related news, Daan Everts, who is deputy head of Kosova's international administration, called on local Serbs to register and vote in the elections due later this year or risk further isolation, Reuters reported from Belgrade. PM
 YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT PARTY SIDES WITH MILOSEVIC BACKERSLegislators from Montenegro's Socialist People's Party (SNP), which was part of Milosevic's government and is now allied to Kostunica, voted with Milosevic's supporters in the parliament on 8 May against stripping two key officials of the former regime of their legislative immunity, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The government wants to investigate Nikola Sainovic and Jovan Zebic for suspected corruption and abuse of office. PM
 "'SEX-GATE,' SERBIAN STYLE" This is the headline in "Vesti" of 9 May to describe the imbroglio surrounding Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Obradovic, whose Social Democracy Party's executive board called for his resignation the previous day after several women party members charged him with sexual harassment. Obradovic declined to comment on the specific charges, saying "you show a sign of affection to a woman and she immediately goes public with it," AP reported. He suggested that his accusers want to oust him as party leader to get power for themselves. He added that "someone might be trying to discredit and obstruct my work" against corruption. Party official Jelenka Milenkovic, who was one of those who charged Obradovic with harassment, left the meeting in tears. She said that Obradovic and his allies "labeled me and some other female party members prostitutes." Reuters reported on 9 May, however, that Obradovic is about to resign from the government. PM
 ROMANIAN PRESIDENT CALLS KING MICHAEL 'HIS MAJESTY'In a message marking Romanian Independence Day, Victory Day over Nazi Germany, and Europe Day -- all celebrated on 9 May in Romania -- Ion Iliescu referred to former King Michael as "His Majesty," saying "homage must be paid" to those who, like the former monarch, "understood how to defend national interests and to chose the most suitable solution for Romania" at the end of World War II, Mediafax reported. The former monarch was the main architect of a palace coup that led to dictator Ion Antonescu's arrest on 23 August 1944 and Romania's switching sides and joining the allies. Under the previous Iliescu presidencies relations with the royal family were tense, but in March Iliescu invited the former monarch to the opening of an art exhibition in the former royal palace. The former king said he could not participate in the inauguration due to other engagements but that he will visit Romania again in the near future. MS
 ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN U.S.Mircea Geoana told National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on 8 May that Romania wishes to continue and strengthen its participation in the Romania- US Strategic Partnership, Mediafax reported the next day. U.S. officials told Geoana that in order to achieve its goal of accession into NATO, Romania must meet not only military criteria, but also -- and above all -- make economic progress. Geoana also met with Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's adviser on security affairs, and with FBI Director Louis Freeh, with whom he discussed the struggle against illegal immigration. MS
 ROMANIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICE OFFICIALS TO BE DISMISSEDThe Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) has concluded that several of its high-ranking officers were involved in 1993 in an attempt to fabricate documents incriminating Radu Timofte, who is now SRI director, Romanian media reported on 7 May. The officers, among them a general, will be dismissed. President Iliescu on 8 May denied media reports that the general is SRI Deputy Director Vasile Lupu. Premier Adrian Nastase said that those involved in the attempt "will have to face legal consequences," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. But former SRI Director Virgil Magureanu said in reaction that he never ordered the "fabrication of incriminating documents" against politicians during his tenure and that it is "highly unlikely" that a conspiracy group within the SRI would have been able to act "without my knowledge." A parliamentary commission recently cleared Timofte of any suspicion of having been a KGB collaborator. MS
 ROMANIAN RULING PARTY ON ROAD TO SOCIALIST INTERNATIONALPrime Minister Nastase, representing the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), on 7 May participated in a Berlin meeting of European socialist parties. It marked the first time a PDSR delegation had participated in events organized by the Socialist International. Also participating were the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSDR), Alexandru Athanasiu, and Democratic Party Chairman Petre Roman. The PDSR and the PSDR ran jointly in the 2000 elections and the date for merging them was recently set for 15 July. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder invited Nastase to pay an official visit to Berlin as head of the Romanian government in July, Romanian radio reported. The Democratic Party has "observer status" in the Socialist International, of which only the PSDR is a full-fledged member. MS
 ROMANIAN MAGISTRATES ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF BRIBE-TAKINGJudge Valentin Acatrinei and Prosecutor Cristian Bojinca, both from the Bucharest Court of Appeals, were arrested on 7 May on suspicion of taking bribes to facilitate the release from prison in January 2000 of Shimon Na'or, an Israeli who was detained after being accused of international arms smuggling. Na'or, who is now in Israel, denied any knowledge of the affair. Two other judges were ordered not to leave Bucharest, pending the conclusion of the ongoing investigation, Mediafax reported. MS
 ILASCU'S ROMANIAN 'HOMECOMING' CREATES POLITICAL UPROARIlie Ilascu, who was liberated on 5 May from his Tiraspol detention, arrived in Romania on 8 May and was immediately received by President Iliescu, Romanian media reported. He said he was "too tired" to go to the Greater Romania Party (PRM) headquarters, where a welcome reception had been prepared in his honor. Ilascu had been escorted by a PRM welcoming delegation from Moldova to Romania, but was then taken under escort by the SRI and brought to the official presidential residence. He told journalists that he owes his liberation "above all" to President Iliescu, though he also thanked PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor for having included him on the PRM lists for the Senate in the 2000 elections. Ilascu said it "remains to be seen" how he can collaborate in the Senate with the PRM. Tudor accused Iliescu of having "hijacked Ilascu just as he has hijacked the  Romanian Revolution" and demanded the dismissal of several officials, among them SRI Director Timofte and Interior Minister Ioan Rus. MS
 SMIRNOV WANTS 'RECIPROCATION' FOR ILASCU'S LIBERATIONSeparatist Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov told journalists on 5 May that the decision to set Ilascu free had been "very difficult" but was made as a "gesture of good will" toward the leadership in Chisinau. In exchange, the Transdniester leadership now expects "similar actions" to be generated by the Moldovan side, Flux reported on 7 May. Smirnov said that Chisinau must "condemn the 1992 aggression of the Republic of Moldova against the people of the Transdniester" and "pay damages in compensation" for that act. He also said the leadership in Chisinau should "apologize to the Transdniester people for the pain they suffered" as a result of Moldovan actions. Ilascu said in Bucharest after his arrival there that he was promised that his three fellow prisoners still detained in Tiraspol will be soon liberated, but that the condition for that to happen was that he must leave Moldovan territory. MS
 MOLDOVA ADMITTED TO WTOThe World Trade Organization (WTO) on 8 May approved Moldova's accession to the organization at a session attended by Premier Vasile Tarlev, AP reported. The agreement must now be ratified by the Moldovan parliament, after which it will come into force within 30 days of the ratification. However, the U.S., invoking an article in the WTO rules, announced it does not consider the accession to apply to trade between itself and Moldova. The U.S. has used this rule four times in the past -- in the cases of Romania, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia -- but later revoked it and is now applying WTO trade rules in regard to those countries. Moldova first applied for admission in 1993. MS
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT BARGAINS ON BULGARIAN NUCLEAR FUEL TRANSITIONVladimir Voronin, speaking on television on 8 May, said Moldova is ready to ratify an agreement with Bulgaria for the transiting of nuclear fuel waste from the Kozloduy nuclear power plant to Russia in exchange for Bulgaria's reduction of tariffs on entry visas for Moldovan citizens, Infotag reported. Voronin said he had offered the deal to Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov when they met recently at an environmental regional summit in Bucharest. Voronin said that the $60 charged by Bulgaria for visas is putting in a difficult position not only Moldovan students in that country, but also businessmen traveling to Turkey and Greece. The previous Moldovan parliament refused to ratify the transit agreement, on the grounds that Moldova is a nuclear-free country. Romania, Ukraine, and Russia have ratified the transition agreement. MS
 BULGARIA FEARS LIBYAN TRIAL IS 'POLITICIZED'Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova on 7 May told Arab ambassadors to Sofia that Libya seems set to stage a political trial against the six Bulgarians accused of having deliberately infected children with the HIV virus. Mihailova cited reports according to which Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qadhafi told an African AIDS summit in Nigeria on 27 April that the trial of the six "is going to be an international trial like the Lockerbie trial" and that the accused had perpetrated their plans on the orders of the CIA and the Israeli Mossad. Mihailova said such statements ahead of the trial "breach the internationally accepted legal principle of presumption of innocence" and indicate that Libya intends to "turn the Bulgarian citizens into scapegoats in settling scores with other countries." The trial is to be resumed on 13 May, after having been postponed 11 times. MS
[C] END NOTE
 HUMAN RIGHTS IN BULGARIA -- 2000By Ulrich Buechsenschuetz
During the past decade since the fall of communism, Bulgaria has shown good progress in the democratization process. The economic transformation, however, has proved to be very slow and has not yielded the results the population had hoped for. It is estimated that about three-quarters of a million Bulgarian citizens have left their homeland since the previous census in 1992 as a result of the difficult economic and social situation.
Under these circumstances, it is remarkable that the human rights situation has steadily improved. A hard-line communist state until the end of Todor Zhivkov's rule, Bulgaria always had a bad record in human rights. After 1989, some citizens felt that it was necessary to found organizations to closely monitor the behavior of state institutions in respect to citizens. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) was one of the first human rights organizations of the Balkan state.
The latest annual report of the BHC, issued in March 2001, suggests that there have been improvements on a number of human rights issues over the past year. Among the improvements the BHC mentions is the adoption of a number of laws that could provide the foundation for a more democratic and transparent legal system, like, for instance, the "Access to Public Information Act."
There are, however, also a number of problems that still require a solution. These problems include shortcomings in judiciary and law- enforcement institutions, minority and gender issues, freedom of speech, and children's concerns.
A large part of the annual report is dedicated to the behavior of judiciary and law-enforcement institutions. The BHC states that there is still a very high number of cases in which suspects held in police custody or detention are severely beaten up or even tortured. The report also mentions some cases of people being killed while in police custody.
Together with the section that deals with the conditions in prisons and correctional institutions, the BHC paints a gloomy picture that includes the state of special boarding schools for mentally retarded children, or for juvenile delinquents. All of these institutions clearly suffer from neglect by the government.
And just as there are institutions in Bulgaria that are neglected, there are entire segments of the population that suffer from the state's neglect, while others suffer from intolerance.
Reading the annual report, one gets the impression that there is one ethnic minority in Bulgaria that suffers the most -- the Roma. Not only do they represent a large part of the inmates of the above-mentioned institutions, they are also over-represented among the victims of police brutality. This minority, which makes up about 3 to 5 percent of Bulgaria's population, is nonetheless neglected in educational, social, and housing questions.
The largest minority, the Turks, now has its own TV program of some 10 minutes daily. But another minority is in a state of permanent conflict with the state authorities -- the Macedonians.
The Bulgarian state has long refused to recognize the existence of a Macedonian minority in Bulgaria; the official point of view is that the Macedonian language is just a Bulgarian dialect. The foundation of an organization of Macedonians was seen as an act of separatism, and in previous years the state's negative behavior toward the United Macedonian Organization "Ilinden" (OMO "Ilinden") was mentioned regularly in human rights reports. This is true not only of the BHC, but also of organizations like Amnesty International.
In particular, the right to assemble peacefully has been restricted for this organization. It came as quite a surprise that the organization succeeded in registering as a political party in 1998, because ethnically based parties are not allowed under the Bulgarian Constitution. But it was no surprise when the Constitutional Court ruled in February 2000 that "the party is a threat to national security through its activities, which are separatist..."
The BHC sees the ruling as politically influenced. OMO "Ilinden" -- PIRIN, as the party was called, then took the Bulgarian state before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The suit is still pending.
Religious intolerance also seems to have been on the rise in the past few years, and it is interesting that there are many cases in which one political party is involved, namely the right-wing Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Movement (VMRO -- not to be confused with the ruling party in former Yugoslav Macedonia of a similar name). Being a nationalist Bulgarian party, some of its members have displayed a growing intolerance, especially toward protestant churches and sects.
State interference in the media is another perennial problem. The BHC reports a number of cases in which journalists were intimidated or sacked from their positions. From the report it seems clear that the ruling party is trying to closely control the electronic media.
On the whole, it is all too obvious that Bulgarian democracy is still in a state of transition. There are many remnants of communist-style intolerance and volatility. It will take a lot of time and money to overcome the shortcomings that the BHC documented in its report. Above all, however, it will require that the ruling elite and the population find the political will to build a civil society with equal rights and liberties for all citizens.
Ulrich Buechsenschuetz is a Balkans expert based in Berlin.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty