Serbian Prosecutor Calls for Ban on Biggest Opposition Party With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ Serbia’s prosecutor general called for a ban on the largest opposition party Thursday, signaling a possible crackdown on President Slobodan Milosevic’s political foes.
The order against the Serbian Renewal Movement came a day after its leader, Vuk Draskovic, and his wife, Danica, were badly beaten in police custody. They were arrested late Tuesday during a protest in Belgrade that was brutally suppressed by police.
Rioting exploded hours after Milosevic’s Socialist Party and its extreme nationalist allies in the Radical Party ousted Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic, a more moderate Serb nationalist, in a no-confidence vote.
Milosevic’s Serbia has helped to fuel the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of his vision of a ″Greater Serbia″ uniting Serbs in the former Yugoslavia. Hard-line nationalists opposed Cosic’s efforts to end the war, but Serbia’s opposition wants it to end so U.N. sanctions punishing Belgrade for its role in the violence will be lifted.
Serbia’s constitutional court would have to approve a ban on the party. But the mere threat was held over the opposition movement’s head to keep it in check.
Draskovic had a broken left arm, facial injuries, was dragging one leg and appeared barely conscious at police headquarters Wednesday, said Cedomir Efendic, a party colleague who was detained with Draskovic and saw him after the beating.
The party leadership said in a statement that the Draskovics ″were physically tortured and their lives are in jeopardy.″ Senior party official Veselin Pavicevic appealed to the world to take action against Milosevic’s ″fascist″ regime.
Draskovic’s attorney found the opposition leader and his wife in Belgrade’s central jail late Thursday. The attorney, Borivoje Borovic, did not see his clients, but told the Tanjug news agency that the head of the prison had insisted they be examined by doctors. There was no word on Draskovic’s condition.
Draskovic is expected to go before magistrates Friday to decide whether he remains in custody, Borovic said.
In a statement carried by Tanjug, the prosecutor general’s office accused Draskovic’s party of inciting Tuesday’s unrest and said it should be banned for organizing the protest and anti-Milosevic demonstrations in March 1991 and June 1992. The statement also said the party repeatedly had demanded the violent overthrow of existing authorities.
″The party crudely abused the constitutional freedom of political activity,″ the statement said.
Vladimir Gajic, general secretary of Draskovic’s party, dismissed the prosecutor’s charges as ″ridiculous.″
″It’s an attempt to introduce the crime of mere thought,″ he said.
Gajic said the party has demanded the resignation of the government, but not its violent overthrow. He added that the opposition had expected to be banned if further unrest followed Tuesday’s riots, in which a policeman was killed and more than 30 people were injured. But leaders did not call for more demonstrations, and a strong police presence kept the streets quiet.
Leaders of Serbia’s fractured opposition have feared a crackdown since it became clear Monday that Milosevic, who had recently adopted a more moderate stance, had allied with extreme nationalists who threaten his power.
In unusually direct criticism, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the removal of Cosic and the crackdown on demonstrators ″worry us as evidence of mounting tension within the country, and of the development of anti- democratic trends.″
But the fact that Draskovic, the best-known Serbian opposition leader and a recent guest of President Clinton, could be detained and severely beaten seemed intended to underline the authorities’ power to act as they please.
The reliable Borba daily said dozens of the 121 people arrested during the protest were given 60-day jail terms Wednesday.