Montenegrin parliament votes in law on religious freedoms

Montenegrin parliament votes in law on religious freedoms

Montenegrin parliament votes in law on religious freedoms Izvor: Reuters

The ruling majority in the Montenegrin parliament early on Friday morning adopted a law on religious freedoms following chaos in which 22 people were arrested and pro-Serb opposition deputies tried to interrupt the session and postpone the adoption of the law by using pyrotechnic devices, destroying the furniture and making threats.

Before the law was passed, an incident occurred when the ruling majority rejected two amendments submitted by the Metropolinate of the Serb Orthodox Church, which claims that the law is being used as a pretext to impound its assets.

The leader of the opposition Democratic Front (DF) party, Andrija Mandic, insisted on discontinuing the session so that on Friday his party could explain more than 100 amendments it had submitted.

He said the ruling majority would not insist on having the law voted in after midnight if their intentions were good, warning them that there could be bloodshed in the country and calling on his wartime fellow-fighters to be ready.

Mandic made the threat as his supporters were rallying in towns across Montenegro, blocking important roads in the country's north and south as well as in central Montenegro, which prompted the police to intervene.

During the parliamentary debate, which started at 11 a.m., protesters rallies outside the Church of the Resurrection and, led by priests of the Serb Orthodox Church, set out towards the parliament building but were stopped by police about 100 metres from the parliament.

Police also prevented the incident in the parliament from turning into a physical conflict by arresting 18 DF members and four other persons.

"These scenes do not belong in a parliament. The state has shown that it can be patient and responsible as well as resolute. This kind of behaviour cannot be tolerated in the parliament," Parliament Speaker Ivan Brajovic said after the session resumed an hour and a half after midnight.

Brajovic was one of the main targets of DF deputies whom he had removed from the parliament and banned from attending parliamentary sessions in the next 15 days.

A deputy of the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro, Ranko Krivokapic, at whom DF deputies shouted insults, called their behaviour the "Seseljization" of the Montenegrin parliament.

"(Vojislav) Seselj did this in 1995. And Serbia has overcome it. This parliament should consist of free people. They were not elected to turn faith into hate and imitate Seselj," he said.

"We all know what the manipulation of nation and religion led to in the former state and region. Thirty years later manipulation of nation and religion cannot be tolerated, and a significant part of today's discussion was marked by that," said Brajovic before calling on the 45 remaining deputies, mostly from the ruling majority, to vote on the proposed amendments.

The amendments were all rejected and the remaining deputies unanimously voted in the law on religious freedoms in its original form.

Under the law, all religious buildings and land that are used by religious communities in Montenegro and are found to have been built with state funds or were owned by the state until 1 December 1918, will be given back to the state.

The law was supported by the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which believes that with its help the state will get back its property that was unlawfully registered as the property of the Serb Orthodox Church. The Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro owns 66 mainly medieval monasteries, dozens of churches and other real estates.

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