Anti-government protests in Serbia replaced by demonstrations for the release of “political prisoners”

Photo: Marko Miletić / Mašina

The beginning of the week saw the dissolution of what started as the biggest protest in Serbia in a decade. Activist organisations and few opposition parties continue to demand the release of whom they claim to be unjustly jailed “political prisoners”.

Vagueness of political articulation is thought by many to be one of the reasons for the protests’ ultimate extinguishing. Political organisations which tried to steer the protests towards their set of goals expressed both conflicting political demands and conflicting protesting strategies. While leftist actors insisted on social justice, right-wingers introduced demands concerning the status of Kosovo. A part of the protesters provoked clashes with the police guarding the Home of the National Assembly, and the police reacted violently (and, as several experts stated, incoherently).

A yet to be determined number of members of the police force who were engaged in breaking the protests expressed excessive force and overall brutality. The public condemned such behaviour and legal aid organisations pressed charges.

The police also jailed what is suspected to be more than 150 persons, a large part of whom were protesting peacefully. Some, in fact, were mere passers-by. Several of the jailed persons, including Miran Pogačar, Vladimir Mentus, Igor Šljapić and Mario Marković are also members of the Joint Action Roof Over Your Head.

Foto: Jelena Lalatović / Mašina

Pogačar was released two days after being taken into custody. Several others, including the mentioned activists, were released after members of the Joint Action Roof Over Your Head and a number of supporters of the Social Democratic Union, Don’t let Belgrade Drown, Marks21and Crveni protested twice in front of the Central Prison in Belgrade.

The Joint Action Roof Over Your Head and other organisations demand the release of all “political prisoners”, and had held another protest yesterday in front of the building of the Government of Serbia.

Igor, Vladimir i Mario were arrested and bullied, and their trials were rigged, but they are now with us. Their court trials will continue, but they are released to defend themselves on their own recognizance. We belief firmly that the protest in front of the Central Prison and public pressure contributed to their release. However, more than one hundred anonymous people, whose names haven’t reached the media and who have no one to stand up for them, are still behind bars. These arrests clearly represent an attempt of frightening the young, and even the whole people, into obedience, so that we wouldn’t stand up to the tyranny. We will not stop this fight until the very last political prisoner and victim of the regime’s oppression is free” Joint Action Roof Over Your Head stated in a press release.

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