Serbia: 60 arrested in clashes between 'neo-Nazis' and 'anti-Fascists'

Belgrade, 8 Oct. (AKI) – Sixty people were arrested and several injured in clashes between a nationalist group called Nacionalni stroj, accused of neo-Nazi leanings, and their “anti-fascist” opponents in Serbia’s northern city of Novi Sad on Sunday, police said on Monday.

Nacionalni stroj, a marginal group of nationalist extremists, led by Goran Davidovic, planned a rally in Novi sad on Sunday, but police banned it on the pretext that they were commemorating the birthday of Hitler’s aid, a Nazi official Heinrich Himmler.

But Davidovic said they were actually marking the birthday of Russian president Vladimir Putin, to thank him for his support in Serbia’s struggle to retain breakaway Kosovo province whose majority ethnic Albanians demand independence.

 “Our organisation nurtures a concept without a leader, it represents Serbian patriotic resistance,” Davidovic said. But small neo-Nazi groups from Slovakia and Bulgaria also came to attend the banned rally.

Fifteen non-governmental organizations and two opposition parties then organized an “anti-fascist” rally, drawing some 5,000 people, to protest what they called the “rise of fascism” in Serbia.

They were attacked by Davidovic’s group and after clashes and several injuries, sixty people, mostly members of the Nacionalni stroj were arrested, Novi Sad police spokesman Stevan Krstic told the media.

The incidents were mentioned on Monday to the Serbian parliament session where Cedomir Jovanovic, the leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - which took part in organizing the Novi Sad protest -demanded the resignation of prime minister Vojislav Kostunica, for allegedly tolerating neo-Nazi groups.

Kostunica’s party spokesman Branislav Ristivojevic said Jovanovic was playing a “cheap political game” trying to present Serbia as a pro-Nazi state.

Another official of Kostunica’s Democratic party of Serbia, Milos Aligrudic, said LDP should be banned, because it resorted to violence to achieve its political goals. The debate in parliament got overheated, prompting speaker Oliver Dulic to interrupt the session.   

Serbs were among the victims of Nazism in the Second World War and Nazi ideology has hardly has any followers in the country. Sonja Liht, the director of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, an NGO, said Serbia was no different from other European countries in its attitude towards Nazism, apart from isolated incidents.

“Our society isn’t inclined towards Nazi ideology and fascism just like any other society in Europe,” she said. But it was encouraging that five thousand people have turned out to protest against the idea of holding a rally with Nazi connotation, she added.


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