Copyright 2000 Nationwide News Pty
Limited * Reprinted for Fair Use Only
February 3, 2000, Thursday
NEWS; Pg. 3
SBS report claims Pratt role in setting up monitor deal /
By Carmel Egan
CARE Australia worker Steve Pratt, convicted of spying by the Serbian Government last year, helped set up a team of ex-military personnel to monitor events in Kosovo, an SBS TV report claimed last night.
The peace monitors were to gather intelligence for the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) but were to share any information they received with the Serbian Government.
Pratt, fellow Australian Peter Wallace and CARE staffer Branko Jelen were arrested as they tried to leave Serbia on March 31 and were convicted later of spying for NATO by a military court. While the three CARE Australia workers were not part of the monitoring agreement, SBS alleged Pratt as CARE's country director had "a role in setting it up".
"It compromised not just him and his co-defendants but CARE's entire effort in the Balkans," SBS claimed.
Pratt, a former Australian Army major, was the subject of much speculation when the Serbians claimed he was arrested carrying militarily sensitive information.
The SBS programme Dateline has alleged the aid workers' neutrality was undermined by a secret deal between the affiliated humanitarian agency CARE Canada and the Canadian Government, a NATO member.
CARE Canada agreed to recruit a team of ex-military personnel to monitor breaches of the peace and violence between KLA guerrillas and Serbian nationalists as threats of war escalated between NATO and Serbia.
CARE Australia chairman Malcolm Fraser last night revealed that Pratt had escorted CARE Canada's director John Watson when he visited the Balkans to establish the monitoring programme.
"Steve was unhappy because it was not strictly humanitarian," he said, but denied the monitoring had anything to do with the arrest and detention of his agency's employees.
"There was no secret contract. The Yugoslavian government was supportive of the monitoring programme. They had agreed to it. It had nothing to do with their arrest, I am absolutely certain of that."
However, Mr Fraser had asked SBS not to screen the story until the release of all the CARE workers for fear the allegations could be "misconstrued in the courts".
Pratt and Wallace were released in September and Branko Jelen finally freed last month.
Spokesmen for Steve Pratt and Peter Wallace said neither would comment on the SBS allegations yesterday.