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NEWS 13 Feb 17

Belgrade Mayor Ordered Controversial Demolitions, Claims Ex-Wife

Campaigners urged Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali to resign after his ex-wife accused him of admitting he organised controversial demolitions to make way for a showpiece government project.

Maja Zivanovic

Sinisa Mali. Photo: Facebook/City of Belgrade.

The Network for Investigating Crime and Corruption, KRIK, published an interview with the Belgrade mayor's ex-wife Marija Mali on Monday, in which she alleged that he admitted that he was responsible for the mystery demolitions by masked men in the Serbian capital’s Savamala district last year.

Marija Mali told KRIK that her ex-husband said he organised the demolitions so that the remaining obstacles to the building of the government-backed Belgrade Waterfront development project would be eliminated.

“I had a problem, some [people] did not want to leave. I organised a clean-up operation. People came in the middle of the night, smashed a little something… I organised it, I took action,” Marija Mali said she was told by her ex-husband.

She did not provide any supporting material to back up her allegations, however.

She also speculated that it was not expected that the demolitions would cause much fuss as they happened on the night after general elections, and were “expected to fall into the shadows”.

The mayor’s office did not respond to BIRN's request for a comment by the time of publication.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic also refused to comment on Marija Mali's claims immediately, but told a press conference that he would respond to questions on the issue on Tuesday.

"Tomorrow you will get a lengthy and thorough response... You will be surprised by my answer," Vucic said.

On the night of April 24 to 25 last year, a couple of dozen masked men blocked Belgrade’s Hercegovacka Street, seized mobile phones from eyewitnesses, some of whom were tied up, and demolished buildings with bulldozers.

Residents and workers in the street called the police for help, but according to a report by the Serbian Ombudsman, Sasa Jankovic, police declined to take action.

The buildings that were knocked down were situated on land that had been earmarked for the upmarket Belgrade Waterfront development project.

The incident sparked a series of large demonstrations led by a campaign group called Let’s Not Drown Belgrade, which on Monday called for mayor Mali’s resignation.

“We demand that his resignation be the first step towards the criminal prosecution of Sinisa Mali,” said the campaign group in a statement.

Vucic admitted last June that top Belgrade city officials were behind the nocturnal demolitions, although he did not name names.

“Without a shred of doubt, behind the demolition in Hercegovacka Street are the highest city officials and they will pay the legal consequences,” Vucic said.

However there have been no prosecutions over the incident and those who ordered the demolitions have not yet been publicly identified.

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