The Interior Minister of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated region, Dragan Lukac, accused on Wednesday opposition leaders of instigating the violence that broke out in Banja Luka a day earlier when police detained a father whose quest for justice for his murdered son has turned into an ongoing anti-government protest.
Lukac’s claims came at a press conference on Wednesday after police detained a day earlier the father of the killed young man, Davor Dragicevic, the mother, Suzana Radanovic, and several of their supporters and opposition politicians.
Footage of the police operation spread throughout the region causing outrage and prompting criticism from local and international officials, including the EU and the OSCE, over the use of excessive force.
Special police wearing masks and equipped with anti-riot gear also removed an improvised monument that citizens had erected for David Dragicevic, the 21-year-old young man whose family has mobilised thousands in the Serb-dominated semi-autonomous entity to support them in their search for the truth about his controversial killing.
Dragicevic was murdered in March and initially, police said that he had taken drugs and drowned in a nearby river. This explanation sparked public outrage and angered the young man’s father who swore he would pursue justice no matter what.
Davor Dragicevic believes police is covering up the murder and protecting some politically connected suspects.
Lukac defended the actions saying that some members of the ‘Justice for David’ group are known criminals, that Davor Dragicevic is illegally occupying Banja Luka’s main square for months and that behind the Bosnian Serb opposition and Sarajevo are behing all of it.
He accused the opposition in Republika Srpska of abusing the Justice for David group “in a morbid way. They steered the group into a political direction.”
The Justice for David group has accused top-ranking officials in Republika Srpska of complicity in murder without any evidence, he said. He also accused the group of provoking the police, insulting officers and trying to force its way into the RS presidential building.
Davor Dragicevic has “given himself the right to hand out justice, he gave himself the right to call out anybody,” adding that nobody else has done that until now.
Dragicevic was released on Wednesday morning while David’s mother was released the same day when she was detained. She told media that officers had raided her home looking for weapons and did not let her inside during the raid while her children, minors, were not allowed to leave the house.
Lukac denied that the children were alone in the house and said that Radanovic and the family’s lawyer were present during the raid.
According to the RS Interior Minister, Tuesday ’s protest over the unsolved murder of David Dragicevic turned violent when opposition politicians arrived at the scene and after officers were provoked.
“You saw the assault on the police officers, where ten are pulling and beating an officer with their hands and feet. We pulled our officers out and finished the job according to the law,” he said.
He also said that Davor Dragicevic’s lawyer, Ifet Feraget, was sent from Sarajevo to ‘destabilise the RS’.
Lukac denied that police used excessive force while detaining the suspects adding that there were no complaints submitted by citizens and there are no medical reports showing that anyone was injured.
He accused Dragicevic of illegally occupying Banja Luka’s main square for months, obstructing a traditional holiday market and jeopardising the upcoming New Years celebration there.
After his release, Dragicevic urged citizens to join him for another protest in the evening at the same square but Lukac said no permit or a gathering was issued or will be issued.
“If he tries to organise the gathering, it will be illegal, it won’t be allowed and he will intentionally enter a conflict with police, provoke the police again, attack the police,” Lukac said, announcing punishments and sanctions against whoever tries to do so.
David Dragicevic’s mother warned the public, alleging that authorities were preparing a “bloodbath” on Wednesday evening.
Protests in support for Dragicevic were held in Belgrade and Sarajevo as well. More were announced for Wednesday again in Sarajevo, Mostar and Tuzla.