LONDON -- Amnesty International said Wednesday there has been a sharp increase in the number of people imprisoned in Yugoslavia for criticizing official policies, including a priest jailed for singing a song.
Political prosecutions nearly doubled in 1980 over the previous year to 553 people, the London-based human rights organization said in a detailed report released Wednesday.
Since then, it said, the number had risen sharply again as more than 800 ethnic Albanians were convicted after nationalist demonstrations in Kosovo Province last year.
'Many of the political prisoners in Yugoslavia were convicted under vaguely worded laws which punish expression of opinion,' Amnesty said.
Stressing the severity of the sentences given to many, ranging up to 15 years in some cases, Amnesty said among those it adopted as prisoners of conscience, or who were under investigation for possible adoption, the average sentence was 7 years in prison.
Amnesty International said it worked for 65 prisoners in 1981 and was investigating 25 other cases, but believes there are many more prisoners of conscience.
It said people have been imprisoned under a law against 'hostile propaganda' for comments they were alleged to have made in private conversations, or poems or articles and for interviews given to the foreign press.
It said Dr. Marko Veselica, former Communist Party and trade union official, was jailed for 11 years in September 1981 after giving an interview to a foreign journalist in which he allegedly misrepresented conditions in Yugoslavia and because of his alleged contacts with emigres for purposes hostile to the state.
'Serbian Orthodox priest Father Nedjo Janjic is serving a 4 -year sentence for singing nationalist songs at a private party celebrating the christening of his son,' it said.
The 50-page report includes descriptions of the laws under which political offenders are convicted -- 'often in contradiction of Yugoslavia's commitments to international human rights agreements.'
'The country's 1974 constitution guarantees its citizens a number of fundamental rights which are also enshrined in international law,'