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news 13 Jan 17

Serbian Rightist Activist Faces Charges Over Mural Dispute

Misa Vacic, an activist of the far-right 1389 Movement and an employee of the Serbian government's Kosovo Office, has been accused of threatening an NGO activist on Facebook.

Natalia Zaba
Mural at Fontana, New Belgrade district picturing the Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President-elect with words "Kosovo is Serbia" in Russian, English and Serbian. Photo by: Natalia Zaba/BIRN

Serbian right-wing activist Misa Vacic faces charges over alleged threats he made to Jelena Pajovic van Reenen - an activist from Civil Society House Endowment - on Facebook in a dispute over a mural that had appeared in Belgrade.

She told BIRN she filed the charges against Vacic on December 12 on the grounds of danger to her personal safety against Vacic.

“Van Reenen pray to God that nothing happens to the picture [of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump]. As kids say: “We know where do you live, we know when do you sleep,” Vacic wrote on Facebook on December 8.

He was responding to posts in which Pajovic van Reenen condemned the appearance of a mural of the Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President-elect in front of a kindergarten, and promised to buy drinks and cakes for any artists who decided to cover it up.

“By this, I wanted to show that New Belgrade citizens do not feel good about this," she told BIRN.

Vacic told BIRN that although his Facebook discussion with her was not pleasant, he was just giving her some advice.

“She doesn’t have any reason to worry about it. It was just my friendly advice, because I know locals, and many people appreciate these murals and put lot of heart into painting them; I wanted to avoid unpleasant reactions,” Vacic told BIRN.

Vacic was recently employed in the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, which caused controversy among NGOs and rights group in December when website Insajder published the news that he worked for a government office.

Marko Djuric, the director of the Kosovo Office, on December 23 denied that Vacic worked in his department, but about a week later acknowledged that Vacic was an employee.

The right-wing activist is well known for playing parts in such actions as the Vidovdan March, a 14-day pilgrimage from Belgrade to Kosovo.

He was earlier involved in violent protests against Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 that resulted in setting on fire the US embassy.

He has been involved in protests in support of Serbs accused of war crimes, including former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

In 2013, the First Primary Court in Belgrade sentenced him to four years' conditional jail for discrimination against the LGBT community, attacking a public officer and possession of an illegal weapon. However in 2015, the court reduced the sentence to two years.

The current case is before the prosecutor for high-tech crime, which did not respond to BIRN's queries by the time of publication.

Judita Popovic, lawyer specialising in online threats, told BIRN that in cases of online safety threats, once the charges are submitted to the prosecution, the case goes first to the police.

After the police investigation, the prosecutor decides if a further legal investigation should be opened. By Serbian law there are no deadlines for such procedures. Penalties for those found guilty can include conditional prison terms.

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