On Saturday, September 4, 2009, five* political activists were arrested in Belgrade on trumped up charges. The five, Tadej Kurepa, Ivan Vulović, Sanja Dojkić, Ratibor Trivunac, and Nikola Mitrović, are activists in or associates of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative, the Serbian section of the International Workers’ Association (IWA). (*The sixth person sought by police, Ivan Savić, was also arrested some days later.)
The arrests are allegedly related to a direct action which took place at the Greek Embassy on August 25. Negligible damage was done: a crack in one window, a tiny burn mark on the facade and a circled A graffiti on the embassy as a act of symbolic solidarity with Thodoros Iliopoulos. The prosecutor however imagines this as an act of “international terrorism” and would like to charge our comrades with such. If the state allows such charges to be pressed, they could be facing 3-15 years in prison.
For more information on the ASI and the case, read this interview with a Slovenian anarchist. Here is an excerpt:
- What influence does the ASI have in Serbia?
As we all know, this is a small organization, yet it has a great influence on society. They have been gaining influence in public opinion, among workers and have been shown to be the only alternative to other unions. They were very effective and persistent with anarchist propaganda, with its principles, tactics and aims, not only among the working class, also among students, teachers, etc.. We firmly believe that this is the main reason for the arrest and we assume that the Serbian intelligence service is behind the entire process.
In addition I would add that the ASI not only has an influence in Serbia, but in many Balkan countries. As these countries do not have anarcho-syndicalist organizations (with exception in Croatia) for the moment, they are the reference. The ASI has put much effort in recent years in the need for a anarchosyndicalist organization.
- What has been the reaction of the Serbian people?
Many kindred organizations have expressed solidarity with the comrades and also public figures (film directors, journalists, writers, etc.).. Also university professors and some leftist groups. As said, the ASI is far more influential than the rest of Europe thinks.
- What is the current status of other anti-order groups in Serbia?
As I said before, the Serbian state has very repressive policies. One of the most active struggles today is anti-fascism and one of the few where all organizations are quite united. This is so because fascism is very strong in Serbia, including in the parliament.
Notably, the fascist movement tends to focus its campaign against the anarcho-syndicalism. For example, just a couple weeks ago when they made a strong campaign against the ASI. I would dare to say that Serb fascism does not focus their struggle against liberal anti-fascism. Its real enemy is anarcho-syndicalism, demonstrating, and I never get tired of repeating it, the great work he has done by the ASI.
In fact, ASI was the catalyst in the BAFI (Belgrade Antifascist Initiative).
You can also keep updated on the case here.
What you can do
The ASI/Free the Belgrade Six solidarity website has an easy-to-use form for emailing a protest letter to high Serbian officials, including the president and prime minister. You can access it here. You can write your own message in the form or send the following prepared text:
We are writing to demand the immediate release of Tadej Kurep, Ivan Vulović, Sanja Dojkić, Ratibor Trivunac and Nikola Mitrović, arrested Sept. 4 in Belgrade on absurd grounds. The prosecutor’s assertations are clearly ridiculous. It seems perfectly clear that this case has been politicized and a show case is being made out of a minor incident. In the meanwhile, the state continues to deflect attention away from the institutionalized violence inflicted daily through war, policing and exploitation, which is the real terror of daily life for millions around the globe. We will not stand by idly as people who fight for social justice are repressed based on their history of political activism. We will campaign for the release of these activists and for the end of state repression.
The Serbian original of the following open letter can be accessed here; thanks to Comrade A. for sending us the English translation.
Open letter from a group of intellectuals concerning the court trial against six anarchists
The Indictment of Anarchists for Terrorism Is a Political Trial
The alleged throwing of two burning beer bottles at the Greek embassy was qualified as an extremely serious crime by the public prosecutor’s office on November 3, 2009. Six proven anti-fascists are thus accused of no more and no less than international terrorism! A group for monitoring the trial against the six anarchists has initiated a petition, collecting signatures under an open letter that aims to bring to public attention the fact that what we are faced with is in fact a political trial. The text of the letter has been endorsed by numerous intellectuals.
The group for monitoring the trial against six anarchists
On September 3 and 4, 2009, Ivan Vulović (24), Sanja Dojkić (19), Ivan Savić (25), Ratibor Trivunac (28), Tadej Kurepa (24), and Nikola Mitrović (29) were arrested by the police. They were arrested under suspicion that they perpetrated the criminal act of causing general danger by throwing “Molotov cocktails” at the Greek embassy building. 24 hours later the state prosecutor’s office changed its qualification of the alleged act from “causing general danger” to “criminal act of international terrorism”. We fear that this was an arbitrary interpretation of the Criminal Code and a case of its instrumentalization for quotidian political purposes.
It is necessary to state the social context in which all this is happening. Historical revisionism is becoming more and more normalized, and legal rehabilitations of Nazi collaborators from World War II are on the agenda. The equation of leftist and far-right political ideas is a consequence. In the year 2009 alone we have witnessed the escalation of violence: as a consequence, one foreign citizen was killed, and numerous threats of violence have been made by the fascist groups. All of this has met with a mild reaction on the part of state prosecutors and the police. To name just one example: in the days leading up to the gay pride parade, the threats of physical liquidation of the gay population were termed mere “polemical tones” by the state’s representative.
The state has been brought to a situation where a confrontation with the violent right-wing groups that it initially nurtured (but which have long since metastasized) seems unavoidable, if only just an illusionary confrontation. And yet the state finds its scapegoat on the left, penalizing it with draconian measures to establish a quasi-balance and thus present itself as “just” (as “restrained”) by opposing wo equally dangerous extremes.
We live in a state where there is no guarantee that a person will be prosecuted for his or her incitement of racial, religious, and ethnic hatred. In all these years, members of the clerico-fascist organization Obraz (which has been operating without interference since 1993) and the Serbian national movement 1389 (which presents itself as “patriotic” while maintaining close contacts with Russian fascist organizations) have not been held criminally liable for their acts, which have included threats against the LGBT community and numerous attacks and beatings of its members. Goran Davidović (aka “Fuehrer”), leader of the neo-Nazi organization Nacionalni stroj, was allowed to openly mock the legal system of the Republic of Serbia when he successfully appealed the guilty verdict in his case, basing his challenge on the fact that trial documents were written in the Latin alphabet.
We also need to remind ourselves of the fact that in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia the act of international terrorism is equated with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes against the civilian population, organization and incitement of genocide, war crimes, and aggressive war. We live in a country that for decades now has been dominated by the national-chauvinist discourse and where even today it is debated whether there was a genocide in Srebrenica or not, or whether mass war crimes in Kosovo even happened.
The willingess of the prosecutor’s office to qualify two thrown beer bottles in the same way as the most horrific crimes known to humanity represents a devaluation of these crimes and is a symptom of the deeply degenerated value system that made such an accusation possible.
On the night of October 23-24, R.K. (17), N.H. (18), and I.F. (19) were arrested in Vršac. The reason for their arrest was that they had been pasting up posters with the slogan “Freedom for arrested anarchists” written on them. A criminal case was initiated against these young people: they are accused of “obstruction of justice” (Article 336b of the Criminal Code). They are threatened with three years in prison if found guilty. Despite the fact that the original stated intention of including this paragraph in the Criminal Code was to combat right-wing extremism, what we see again is a crackdown on the left.
We think that the reason that a political indictment of this kind could even be produced lies in the influence the political parties have on the representative and judicial branches of the government (one example is the fact that judges are re-elected by the High Council for Legal Affairs, whose members are nominated by the parliament). The Venice Commission in the Council of Europe and the European Commision have both already pointed to this arrangement as controversial.
Taking into account Article 10 of the European Declaration of Human Rights, we do not hesitate to openly state that all the circumstances of this case clearly lead us to conclude that in its essence the trial against the six young people is a political trial. That is why we demand the withdrawal of this senseless indictment.
10 December 2009
Aleksej Kišjuhas, Borka Pavićević, Dragomir Olujić, Goran Despotović, Jovo Bakić, Ljubiša Rajić, Ljubomir Živkov, Pavel Domonji, Sonja Biserko, Sonja Drljević, Srbijanka Turajlić, Staša Zajović, Svetlana Lukić, Svetlana Vuković, Todor Kuljić, Nebojša Spaić, Vera Marković, Vesna Rakić Vodinelić, Vladimir Ilić, Zagorka Golubović, Zoran Petakov, Želimir Žilnik