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Yugoslavia: Zitzer Prisoner on Hunger Strike

In May 1992, in Oromhegyes/Tresnjevac, Vojvodina, Yugoslavia, 200 reservists refused the call-up for military service (called "training"). Following this, 50 Yugoslav tanks surrounded the village for 40 days and the Zitzer Spiritual Republic was born.

The military authorities chose three of these intending to make an example of them. One has already spent three months in prison. On 10-11 May, the military tribunal sentenced the other two objectors — Vilmos Almasi for four months in prison, Peter Sarkany for three months. Sarkany's is still under appeal, but Almasi is in prison in Subotica. He began a hunger strike on his first day in prison, 16 May.

In addition to his conscientious objection, Peter Sarkany also claims medical grounds for refusing military service. He has a bad spine and cannot hold anything weighing more than 15 kilos.

Vilmos Almasi is a delegate in his local community assembly, and as such should have immunity. His main occupation is as a farmer, and during the farming season should therefore be exempt from either military service or prison. He is the chief source of financial support for his family (wife, four-year-old child and parents).

The Serbian authorities have frequently used conscription as a means of ethnic cleansing. Since they did not confiscate Almasi or Sarkany's passport, it seems that in this case too they would be happy for them — and other Zitzer objectors — to flee Serbia.

Send protests to: Narodna Skupstina Republike Srbije, Predsednik Republike Slobodanu Milosevicu, 11000 Belgrade, fax: + 381 11 646 456; Vlada Savezne Republike Jugoslavije, Ministar za Ljudska Prava i Manjinska Pitanja (Minister for Human Rights and Minorities) — Margit Savovic, 11000 Belgrade, Yugoslavia, fax: + 381 11 636 775