Radomir Lazovic from Belgrade, Serbia, received a written notification from the Magistrates Court that his sentence was converted into jail term. Lazovic, an activist from the citizens’ initiative Ne Davimo Beograd, was initially fined for organising a protest on 11 May 2016. According to the Court’s sentence, this protest broke the law on Public Gathering.
In the first sentence, the Court gave him a financial penalty, but the decision was eventually overturned as Lazovic did not pay in due time the amount to the public administration. As he says, “I am ready to go to jail for my political views.” On 11 May 2016, the Initiative Ne Davimo Beograd called for a demonstration in front of the City Hall, calling for the resignation of then-Mayor Sinisa Mali.
A few weeks before this demonstration, a group of masked men came with bulldozers in the area of Savamala, on the banks of the Sava river. In just a few hours, they levelled all the houses and buildings that stood there, while the inhabitants were trussed on the streets. In spite of the numerous calls from other residents, the local police never showed up and let massive illegal destruction happening in the city centre. The demonstration was called after the Citizens’ Ombudsman released a report where he showed at the numerous failures from the police and city officials in the case. In the meantime, Serbian president Vucic told publicly that the Minister of Interior knew who was behind this criminal act and that all elements were pointing at high city officials. However, those accusations never led to an arrest, and the investigation is still ongoing with no tangible results.
Ultimately, the Police internal report unveiled that many public companies also indirectly helped in the organisation of the raid on the neighbourhood. For instance, the national energy company told that someone from the City called them to cut out the electricity in this area on that night. Also, the cleaning company (JKP Gradska Cistoca) were told to keep away this same night. Finally, the municipal pound removed all the cars from the streets a few hours before the bulldozers took action.
Radomir Lazovic explains that, since the beginning of the protests, more than 30 processes were opened against Ne Davimo Beograd activists for various protests and actions. In total, the Initiative’s activists have combined for over 400 000 RSD fines, about 3400 Euro. He believes that the jail term “is an attempt to intimidate activists”, saying that the message from the government is clear: “we will arrest you for the smallest things so that we can do whatever we want to.” Radomir also reminds that the Savamala case was covered by many investigative journalists, who received death threats from mysterious sources. This even triggered a reaction by the European Parliament, which added amendments to the country’s 2016 report, including one on the need to stop pressure on activists from Ne Davimo Beograd.
To conclude, Radomir says that “[we] live in an absurd country where the justice system has been totally privatised for the privileged and where it became normal that anyone who alerts about those breaking the law is the one eventually facing a trial”.
Featured image: Ne Davimo Beograd