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Interview 14 Jul 17

Belgrade Rapper Backs Montenegro’s Embattled Opposition Leader

Serbian rapper Fedja Dimovic explains why he has joined the defence team of Montenegro opposition leader Nebojsa Medojevic - who faces serious charges in his home country.

Maja Zivanovic

Fedja Dimovic. Photo: Media Centre Belgrade

Fedja Dimovic, the lawyer and head of the rap group Beogradski sindikat [Belgrade Union] told BIRN in an interview that the corruption accusations against Montenegrin opposition leader Nebojsa Medojevic look like something that the old secret police might have put together - and the prosecution has offered no real evidence for its case.

“The accusations carry the recognizable mark of UDBA [the former Yugoslav secret police.] I saw many of such indictments in Serbia, so this is nothing new to me,” Dimovic said, calling the case against Medojevic an example of “the inquisition principle in force” in which the defendant is forced to prove his innocence.

Dimovic joined Medojevic’s legal team early in July after opposition MPs in Montenegro spent eight days blocked in parliament to prevent the MP’s arrest, which the prosecution had called for.

His Serbian rap group, Beogradski Sindikat, is famous for its criticism of the Serbian government and for anti-establishment songs, which have been widely played in anti-government protests both in Serbia and Montenegro.

In a well-known song “The system is lying to you”, released during the parliamentary election campaign in Serbia in April 2016, the group sent a clear message: “The system is lying to you; do not believe what it says to you; this life is a fight, from birth to grave, so rise up immediately.”

The rap group supported the protests against the Waterfront project Belgrade in 2015, which saw people taking to the streets to protest against a Gulf-backed development on the riverside in Belgrade that will include residential and office buildings, the largest shopping mall in the Balkans, a hotel, an opera house and a skyscraper.

The joint investment of the Serbian government and investors from the UAE has been widely criticised for lack of transparency.

Notoriously, in April 2016, a group of masked men blocked a street in the district earmarked for development, tied up witnesses, seized their mobile phones and then used bulldozers to tear down residential and commercial objects.

Dimovic told BIRN that he and Medojevic, a bitter critic of the government of Montenegro, had been in contact for some time through common friends.

“I regularly follow the political situation in Montenegro and am familiar with the hunt that [former Prime Minister Milo] Djukanovic’s regime leads against its political opponents,” Dimovic said.

For him, it is important to fight all forms of repression that are characteristic of “police states”, he said.

In May, Medojevic was accused of plotting to help a businessman from Bosnia to evade taxes and of money laundering.

“I am afraid that the authorities in Serbia could behave in the same way in a situation where there was a united opposition.

“The latest arrests and detentions of journalists and political opponents [in Serbia] prove the situation will develop in that direction,” Dimovic predicted.

“Sindikat is not a political movement”

Speaking about their music and activism, and about claims that they promote right-wing Serbian nationalist views, Dimovic insisted that Beogradski Sindikat is not a party or movement.

“We don’t have a strict ideology or a political program … We invite people to think with their heads,” Dimovic said.

He added that the group advocates a system of values in which patriotism is highly ranked, however, quoting the Serbian writer Momo Kapor: “Patriotism is a matter of home education”.

In an interview in 2013 published on Vostok portal, Dimovic criticized the signing of the Brussel Agreement.

The EU-supervised deal paved the way for the establishment of a formal dialogue between the governments of Serbia and the former province of Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008.

Talking about the Kosovo agreement, Dimovic said it was “the best example of how the [Serbian] government had sacrificed the national interest for the fictional story of a European Eldorado”.

Dimovic said his group was anti-system-oriented because the system in Serbia negated the values the rap group stands for.

His engagement in the rap group and his nine-year career as a lawyer are inseparable for him, he said, because in both fields he strived to stand for the same principles of freedom, justice, and fairness.

“Advocacy … gives me the inspiration to write songs,” he said.

“In my song ‘Pretorian Guard’, I described how the connections between secret service, the judiciary and organized crime operate. It's an octopus that still has its tentacles in this region.

“Medojevic became a victim the moment he struck at this hive. That is why I decided to defend him”.

“Pretorian Guard”, released in 2006, described the links between the political parties in power and secret services in Serbia.

A line says: “There is always the [secret] service, to kill and torture through all forms of society; their name is not important nor what the constitution says; when you hear the step of the troops, be aware that you are dead.”

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