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News 03 Oct 17

Serbian Students Charged with Organising Anti-Vucic Rally

Police charged two Belgrade students with organising a protest against Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in April, even though the rally, which was organised on social networks, had no official leaders.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Serbian students made up the bulk of protesters at the April rallies. Photo: Beta/Dragan Gojic

Serbia’s Interior Ministry filed charges against students Pavle Terzic and Gavrilo Vucetic for allegedly organising one of a series of unlicensed and officially leaderless protests entitled ‘Against the Dictatorship’, which were staged after Aleksandar Vucic’s victory in the April 2 presidential elections.

Terzic and Vucetic were charged because the demonstration had no permit from the authorities.

According to daily newspaper Danas from Tuesday, police allege that Terzic and Vucetic were the organisers of a rally on April 21 because, among other things, they walked at the head of the column of marchers and carried a megaphone.

They also allegedly ‘led’ the crowd in chanting in front of the offices of the pro-government tabloid Informer and called on the protesters to accept an offer from an opposition MP to observe a parliament session as guests, although this did not happen in the end.

"I think the case is that they couldn’t find anyone to lay the blame on, so they picked us two because we were active at the protests," Vucetic told the regional TV channel N1.

Their hearing before a misdemeanour court is scheduled for October 17.

In the presidential elections on April 2, Vucic won 55 per cent of the votes while the runner-up, former Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic, won 16 per cent.

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The ‘Against the Dictatorship’ protests started on April 3, the day after Vucic won the elections in the first round.

Thousands of people took to the streets, with the largest protests being held in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis and Kragujevac. Between dozens and hundreds of people also protested daily in other towns.

The protests in Belgrade had no official organisers, and those who wanted to join in would agree on where to march each day on a Facebook event page and via a Facebook group which was also called ‘Against the Dictatorship’.

On April 10, the protesters across Serbia issued a joint list of demands that they put to the authorities. The demands were agreed on Facebook, where all interested parties could participate in the discussion.

They included the abolition of what they referred to as ‘dictatorship’ in Serbia and the complete removal of the political elite headed by Aleksandar Vucic, as well as various socio-economic demands.

Pro-government tabloids published negative stories about the rallies, but the protesters also accused Serbian state-owned media of downplaying the protests

Three presidential candidates, Sasa Jankovic, Bosko Obradovic, Ljubisa Preletacevic Beli, as well as most opposition parties, expressed support for the non-violent rallies.

The ultra-nationalist Radical Party leader, Vojislav Seselj, also supported some of their demands.

Newly-elected President Vucic said the protests were legitimate as long as they remained non-violent.

However, by the end of April, the numbers of protesters had shrunk from thousands to hundreds, and in early May the fading protest movement split into liberal and left-leaning factions.

The movements which came out of the protests then turned to fighting social injustice by trying to prevent forced evictions and debt collections from the poor.

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