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Defendants Slavko Aleksic and Risto Lecic outside court in February 2021. Photo: BIRN
The Bosnian state court on Friday acquitted Ravna Gora Movement members Dusan Sladojevic, Slavko Aleksic and Risto Lecic of inciting ethnic, racial and religious hatred, discord and intolerance in the Visegrad area in March 2019.
Members of the Ravna Gora Movement – widely known as the Chetniks – rallied in Visegrad on March 10, 2019 wearing black uniforms and singing ethnically provocative songs. The participants then drove in a noisy car convoy to the nearby village of Dobrunska Rijeka, also known as Drazevina.
The indictment claimed that the three defendants participated in incidents that provoked “distress and fear” among the local population, particularly among non-Serbs who fled the area during the 1990s war and have since returned.
But the court cleared Sladojevic, president of Ravna Gora Movement of Republika Srpska, of addressing the participants while they held a line-up in Visegrad and of giving a military salute to Aleksic as a song with provocative lyrics was played in the background.
Aleksic was acquitted of addressing the participants in Dobrunska Rijeka using terminology that provoked fear among the population.
Lecic was acquitted of playing and singing a song glorifying the Chetnik movement with lyrics threatening “hell and blood”, which provoked distress and fear.
Explaining the verdict, judge Stanko Blagic said that was not disputed that the gathering itself caused distress and brought back bad memories for the witnesses who testified during the trial.
But Blagic said that the defendants’ guilty could not be proven on the basis of witnesses who learned about the Chetnik song later, “after having read about it in the media”.
The authorities had been notified about the Chetnik event in advance and it was Properly supervised by the police, the court found. The controversial song was only sung a small circle of people at the very beginning of the gathering, judge Blagic added
“There is no evidence that the defendants addressed a larger group, but members of the [Chetnik] movement only,” he said.
There was no evidence that the defendants publicly promoted the event or invited people to attend via social networks, the court found.
The court also concluded that the prosecution did not offer relevant evidence to show that the defendants acted with premeditation to cause hatred and intolerance.
The verdict can be appealed.
The Chetnik rally is held in the town every year to commemorate the day on which Dragoljub ‘Draza’ Mihailovic, the leader of the World War II Chetnik movement, was caught by the Yugoslav Communist authorities in 1946.
During WWII, Mihailovic’s forces committed war crimes and other atrocities, including crimes against Bosniaks in the Visegrad region. Visegrad was also the scene of war crimes by Serbs against Bosniaks in 1992.