The detention and “humiliation” of the prime minister of Bosnia’s Federation (FBiH) region in connection with a controversial ventilator procurement deal is part of “a continuous attack on Bosniaks” by the state Prosecution Office, the leader of the main Bosniak party in the country, Bakir Izetbegovic, said on Friday.
Police detained FBiH Prime Minister, Fadil Novalic, former head of the FBiH Civil Protection Authority, Fahrudin Solak, and the owner of the company, Fikret Hodzic, on Thursday and questioned them about the procurement of overpriced ventilators that are unfit for treating COVID-19.
All three are suspected of conspiracy to commit crimes, abuse of office and money laundering, destruction or forgery of official documents and receiving gifts or other forms of benefit and are expected to be handed over to state prosecutors on Friday.
Izetbegovic, the leader of the Party for Democratic Action (SDA), argued that Bosniaks are under attack by the state Prosecutor's Office since the new Chief Prosecutor, Gordana Tadic, took office.
He asked why the FBiH health minister, the head of the Public Health Institute and the head of the Crisis Headquarters were also not detained and questioned although they also played their roles in the case.
“The only thing that separates them, and obviously gives them amnesty when compared to Fadil Novalic, is that they belong to the same ethnic group as Prosecutor Tadic,” Izetbegovic said.
He argued that the chief prosecutor “wouldn’t even think of” questioning top officials of Bosnia’s Serb-majority region of Republika Srpska (RS) regarding the controversial procurement of a field hospital.
Izetbegovic called upon prosecutors to urgently present all the evidence they have against Novalic to the public and not to “hide behind phrases” such as the need to keep the probe secret.
“I am certain that there is no evidence and that there will not be any,” he said, adding that Tadic is “persistently avoiding to prosecute cases of grave crimes committed against Bosniaks.”
According to an SDA statement, the detention of Novalic is a "well-thought-up and coordinated activity which has elements of a coup," adding that the goal is to eliminate the SDA official so that FBiH deputy Prime Minister from the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), Jelka Milicevic, can take over.
The Bosniak member of the country’s Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, also spoke out in defence of his party colleague Novalic.
“I think he did all he could. I am deeply convinced that he is not involved in criminal activities,” he said.
Novalic, Solak and Hodzic are suspected of the crimes regarding an FBiH government contract which allowed a company running a raspberry farm with no history in dealing with medical equipment, to procure 100 ventilators from China.
The fact that a 10.5 million Bosnian Mark (some 5.3 million Euro) government contract was granted to Srebrena Malina sparked outrage in the semi-autonomous Bosnian region.
According to prosecutors, experts found that the ventilators “did not even meet the minimum characteristics necessary for the adequate treatment of patients in intensive care units, among which are COVID-19 patients.”