Hundreds gathered in front of Bosnia’s top judicial body on Wednesday after the country’s Security Minister invited them to express their dissatisfaction over alleged corruption and to demand the resignation of top officials in the institution.
Minister Dragan Mektic, who is leading the protest, said that “crime, corruption and nepotism have taken over the judicial institutions.”
“That is why I think that the only chance, the only way for the people in this state is to take things into their own hands through democratic pressure,” he said. “We want a lawful state, tycoons and criminals who are serving positions of responsibility need to be prosecuted unconditionally.”
The protest came after local investigative news portal ‘Zurnal’ recently published articles which allege that the head of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, HJPC, Milan Tegeltija, took a bribe in return for speeding up a case at local courts.
The HJPC is the body overseeing the work of Bosnia’s judiciary which appoints judges and prosecutors.
The money was allegedly handed to State Police officer Marko Pandza who acted as a middleman.
Tegeltija adamantly denied any wrongdoing and the HJPC publicly expressed support for him, while prosecutors formed a case to investigate the accusations.
Zurnal then published a secretly recorded video of a meeting between Tegeltija, Pandza and businessman Nermin Alesevic. It appears to be showing Alesevic handing the money to Pandza but does not contain footage of Tegeltija taking it over. Tegeltija cannot be heard asking for any money directly.
After the video was published, Tegeltija told N1 that the footage actually proves his innocence.
But Alesevic told N1 that he recorded the video, that it proves wrongdoing by Tegeltija and that he asked for immunity in any potential proceedings that may arise from the alleged affair.
Mektic called on Tegeltija to resign.
Renown actor Emir Hadzihafizbegovic also called on citizens to join the protest.
The family of Dzenan Memic, a young man whose controversial death in 2016 has never been solved and whose father believes the judiciary in Sarajevo is protecting his son’s killer, joined the protest as well.
So did members of the ‘Justice for David’ movement, based in Banja Luka. It is a group of citizens who have been protesting for more than a year over the unresolved murder of David Dragicevic.
Drasko Stanivukovic, a lawmaker in the parliament of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated semi-autonomous part, Republika Srpska (RS), also arrived at the protest.
He said that the gathering represents “a fight for life,” referring to the controversial deaths of Dragicevic in the RS and Memic in the other semi-autonomous part of the country, the Federation (FBiH), and alleging that judicial officials across the two entities “unite and protect each other.”