Beating and jailing of non-violent activists followed by protest in front of Belgrade Central Prison

“Stop the Violence”; activist Igor Šljapić protesting in Belgrade ; Poto: Nemanja Pančić / Kamerades

The police arrested non-violent protesters, among them leftist activists, on the sixth day of protests. Joint Action Roof Over Your Head organized a protest outside Central Prison in Belgrade demanding the release of “political prisoners”.

Three members of the anti-eviction activist group Joint Action Roof over Your Head, who participated in last week’s protests, were arrested in Belgrade on Sunday, July 12.

Although the sixth protest in Belgrade ended peacefully, a few non-violent activists, who otherwise take part in actions against evictions, were apprehended by the police.

Igor Šljapić, Vladimir Mentus and Mario Marković were arrested last night in Belgrade, the Joint Action Roof over Your Head announced on social networks.

Šljapić and Mentus were detained during the demonstrations, although, as The Roof reports, they protested peacefully and caused no incidents. Marković was, in fact, arrested in his workplace, i.e. while delivering food by bicycle.

The arrests were just the beginning of the police’s violent treatment of these activists, which soon turned from unjust to brutal. Mentus was beaten by police during his arrest, and then sentenced – not to detention – but to a maximum sentence of 30 days in prison, although he had no prior convictions. Šljapić’s case was also urgently processed by the court, which sentenced him to 30 days in prison.

“USA, France, Montenegro, Serbia, working people rise up, police kills”; Protest in front of Belgrade Central Prison; Photo: Jelena Lalatović / Mašina

In the case of both Roof’s activists, as stated in a press release by the Roof, arrests and convictions were based on allegations that they had insulted police officers during the protests. In both cases, the only witnesses were the police officers who carried out the arrests, and the activists were convicted without their lawyers’ presence. Marković is also charged with insulting the police.

We demand freedom for Igor, Vladimir and Mario and sanctions for the police and all participants of this illegal, rigged and inhumane implementation of the court procedure!, states the Roof in the mentioned press release.

The Sociological Scientific Society of Serbia (SNDS) also issued a statement against the arrest of their member, Vladimir Mentus.

Police actions and court proceedings done in this fashion represent flagrant violation of human rights, undermine the legal system of the Republic of Serbia and represent another example of usurpation of institutions, the SNDS stated.

In response to all this, the Roof called citizens to join them in “Protest for the release of all political prisoners”, in front of Central Prison in Belgrade. A few hundred people attended the protest, together with representatives of political and activist organizations who supported the Roof’s demands, including Ne davimo Beograd initiative (NDMBG) Socialdemocratic Union (SDU), Marx21.

We hope that this form of pressure will contribute to the release of all prisoners, stated Dobrica Veselinovic from Ne davimo Beograd through a live broadcast by the Roof.

Just a few days ago another activist of the Roof, Miran Pogacar, spent 48 hours in prison in Novi Sad. He was arrested under suspicion that he had behaved violently and called for violence at the protest, although video footage exists which proves otherwise. Today Pogacar addressed the public via Facebook live broadcast. He stated that he found it to be strange that the police in Novi Sad didn’t guard public property that much, and in his opinion let the protesters express their anger by through demolishing it, only to start apprehending people afterwards.

A few protesters also stated that they believed the police made arrests in order to fear people into obedience.

Activists of the Roof and SDU chanted a short anti-government song in front of the Central prison:

You crooks have taken and sold, the shirts off our broken backs, our schools, our industry, our health and pension insurance, but we’re coming to take it back!”

Translation from Serbian and extended by Iskra Krstić.

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