News 14 May 15

Former Kosovo Serb Minister Charged with Hate Speech

A former Kosovo Serb minister has been charged with inciting 'national, racial and religious intolerance' - three months after a wave of protests led to his sacking.

Una Hajdari
BIRN
Pristina
Former Minister of Communities and Returns Aleksandar Jablanovic. Photo by Una Hajdari

Charges have been filed against former government minister Aleksandar Jablanovic at the prosecutor's office in the town of Gjakova/Djakovica, accusing him of inciting “national, racial and religious intolerance”, as well as for “intolerance”.

Jablanovic was told to appear for interview with the prosecutors on May 11 but did not go because he was on holiday, so he has now been ordered to appear on May 22.

The ex-minister said he was a victim of intimidation. “I see this as a means of pressure on the Serbs [in Kosovo] that aims to scare and discipline its political representatives,” Jablanovic said.

“We are not guilty of anything and have no reason to prove our innocence, and especially not in front of the prosecution in Gjakova,” he continued, calling the charge a way to detract attention from the overall treatment of Serbs in Kosovo.

Jablanovic was Minister for Communities and Returns until a statement he issued on the eve of Orthodox Christmas about protesters who had stopped Serbs from visiting an Orthodox church in Gjakova/Djakovica.

The then minister called the protesters “savages” for throwing stones at the bus transporting the pilgrims to church. He was later forced to resign.

Driton Caushi, head of the nationalist Vetevendosje party in Gjakova/Djakovica, which spearheaded the protests, said that if Jablanovic were to be indicted, it would set an important precedent.

“This is a good opportunity to prove that such statements are unacceptable,” he told BIRN.

However, he said the case was unlikely to succeed because of its “highly political nature”.

“Our legal system is weak as it is, let alone when politics is involved,” Caushi said.

Jablanovic’s statement on January 6 provoked outrage among Kosovo Albanians and sparked protests in various Kosovo towns.

The minister apologised for his choice of words but discontent remained high and a rally organised in the Kosovo capital on January 24 was widely considered the biggest protest held since the country declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Another large protest followed on January 27 – marked by higher levels of violence between police and protesters.

On February 3, Prime Minister Isa Mustafa announced that he was removing Jablanovic from his cabinet. Dalibor Jevtic has since taken his position.

Jablanovic is a member of the pro-Belgrade “Srpska” party, formed before the local elections in November 2013 with the goal of putting forward candidates “on a platform supported by Belgrade”.

That fact alone has increased distrust for the party and its representatives amongst the Kosovo Albanian majority.

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