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news 09 Jan 14

Roma Activist Musician Assaulted in Serbia

Olah Vince, a Roma activist and musician, said he was attacked in the street near his home in Novi Sad at Christmas, having received a series of threatening messages.

BIRN
Belgrade

Olah Vince, a Roma activist and musician, said that he was attacked and beaten up by six unknown men as he was walking with his wife at Christmas outside their house in the Telep quarter in the northern city of Novi Sad.

"They asked me whether I was Olah Vince and the moment I confirmed it, two men hit me in the head twice," Vince told Beta news agency on Thursday.

According to him, the attack was "a classical ambush". He said that in the latter half of 2013 he started getting anonymous threatening telephone calls and text messages, after he publicly accused the Novi Sad authorities, the National Council of Roma and the Vojvodina Office for Roma Inclusion, of corruption and discrimination.

Vince organized a protest rally in Novi Sad in June after the city allocated only 50,000 dinars (about 430 euro) for the organization of a Roma festival.

Earlier, Vince won a special award from the City of Novi Sad for his contribution to the development of multiculturalism, expressed through music and social work and activism for Roma participation in the cultural and public life of Novi Sad.

The head of the Vojvodina government, Bojan Pajtic, the mayor of Novi Sad, Milos Vucevic, the Councillor for Roma Integration with the Serbian government, Srdjan Sajn, and the Interior Ministry State Secretary, Vladimir Bozovic, all condemned the assault.

Serbia's main opposition Democratic Party also condemned the attack. "No one can feel safe in Novi Sad today," the party said in a statement.

Roma are periodically attacked in Serbia. In 2000, a group of skinheads in Belgrade beat up Serbian actor Goran Maksimovic as they believed he was a Roma. Maksimovic died from the injuries soon after.

According to the 2011 census, there are 147,604 Roma people in Serbia, but unofficial estimates put the figure at closer to 450,000 or 500,000.

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