A day after the turbulent protest in Belgrade, on July 8 the demonstrations spilled over into Niš, too. Citizens of Niš took to the streets chanting slogans, throwing eggs at the Serbian Progressive Party chapter office, applauding medical workers and expressing their anger toward the police outside the Niš police headquarters. One of the demonstrators was 24-year-old Mitar Stojanović, who, in his own words, went out to peacefully protest the situation in the state with his mother and friends.
While at the protest, he threw eggs at a poster of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić above the local Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) chapter office. According to him, he did not take part in any other incidents, he even prevented some youths from demolishing the cars parked around the Niš police headquarters.
After the protest, he sat down with his friends at a bar in downtown Niš. He says that half an hour later several men in civilian attire rushed into the bar, planning to arrest him without showing any ID first.
“Ten of them came, they started pulling my hands behind my back, I started yanking to the left and right. The two who were holding me fell down, I’d pushed them away somehow. The whole bar saw the injustice, not knowing what was happening, they began to pull me out, because the ten men were going to put me into a car,” says Stojanović, adding that he did not want to get in and that he pushed against the bottom edge of the car with his feet.
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U pivnici “Ministarstvo” u centru Niša sam napadnut brutalnim privodjenjem od strane neuniformisanih lica, bez ikakve legitimacije i prestadstavljanja da su pripadnici Niške policije. Ovo je sramota i bruka ove “velike” države u kojoj živimo! PODELI NEKA VIDI SRBIJA ŠTA SE RADI I KAKO SE OPHODE PREMA GRADJANIMA ISTE!
In Stojanović’s words, he took advantage of the whole situation and managed to escape home. However, he was later informed that a very close friend of his who had witnessed the incident at the bar, and another friend, had been arrested. That was when he decided to turn himself in. He says that at the police station he encountered the same men who had unsuccessfully tried to arrest him at the bar and that they later interrogated him at the police headquarters where the Security Information Agency office is located. He knows this because his father used to work at the police.
“When I turned myself in, they took me to the Security Information Agency office, where some five or six inspectors alternated: good, bad, good, bad, like in American movies,” says Stojanović.
He further says that they questioned him about the protests in general and wrote everything down in a notebook.
“Those were stupid questions, where had I been, whom had I been with, who were the people who had been there with me (…) They asked me why I’d run away, who the organizer was, they interrogated me about some other people as well, whether I knew anyone else (…) they questioned me about some guy with a black baseball cap who had led the group, with a microphone. I said I didn’t know,” says Stojanović.
About an hour and 45 minutes later they took him to the office of the criminal police chief, where he gave a statement. After nearly four hours at the police HQ, they let him go home.
The results of the failed arrest attempt at the bar are Mitar Stojanović’s torn T-shirt and minor injuries.
Stojanović claims that he went to the Emergency Clinic, where doctors diagnosed injuries which he says he sustained when the plainclothes police officers tried to push him into the car.
The report he received at this health care institution, which CINS journalists also saw, reads that Stojanović has visible hematomas on his upper arms and that his left lower leg is injured.
Lawyer Danilo Nikolić, a former state secretary at the Ministry of Justice, says that it is unusual that, despite not being a suspect, Stojanović was arrested at all and spent so much time in police premises.
“They had to inform him, if he was there as a citizen, that he could give a statement or not (…) They could have informed him to come [to the police HQ]. And if he was there as a citizen, a period of four hours was inappropriate,” Nikolić points out.
He says that it would have made more sense if they had arrested him during the protest itself rather than afterwards.
CINS attempted to obtain a comment on the event from those in charge at the police headquarters in Niš, but got none by the time this article was published.
We also tried to learn from the Security Information Agency why Stojanović had been interrogated in their premises, but did not get an answer from them either.