Bosnian Serb authorities have released from detention the man who has sparked anti-government protests with his demands for the truth about his son’s death.
Police arrested Davor Dragicevic on Tuesday over allegations that he threatened the security of Interior Minister Dragan Lukac. He was freed on Wednesday after being questioned by prosecutors in Banja Luka, the main city in Republika Srpska, Bosnia‘s Serb-run entity.
The prosecutor’s office said the legal proceedings against Dragicevic will continue but that there was no reason to keep him in detention.
Hours later, Dragicevic led more than 1,000 people to a protest march in Banja Luka as riot police blocked a central square barring the demonstrators from gathering there.
Dragicevic took the crowd to the spot where he says his son David Dragicevic was killed in March. No incidents were reported on Wednesday following a day of scuffles between police and Dragicevic’s supporters on Tuesday.
Several other people were also detained on Monday, including some opposition politicians and briefly Dragicevic’s ex-wife. The family’s supporters rallied in protest, scuffling with the police in the city.
I welcome Davor Dragicevic and other supporters of the #JusticeforDavid movement being released from custody in Banja Luka yesterday afternoon and this morning. Any new demonstrations should continue to be peaceful and non-violent. RS authorities need to show restraint.
— Lars-Gunnar Wigemark (@LarsGWigemark) December 26, 2018
“They claim I threatened someone and I did not,” Dragicevic said upon his release. “I will never give up!”
For the past nine months, Dragicevic has been protesting daily at Krajina Square in Banja Luka, now known as “David’s Square”, demanding justice for his 21-year-old son who was found dead in a shallow river.
Police initially said the death was a suicide, but the young man’s family insists he was killed by someone else. Prosecutors have opened a homicide investigation, which is ongoing.
Dragicevic has accused top police officials of covering up his son’s slaying and protecting the killers. Authorities deny the allegations.
The “Justice For David” movement has been demanding information about the death. It has inspired months of anti-government protests that have reflected wide popular discontent over corruption in the Balkan nation.
When a legally elected MP gets arrested – twice in the same day, and very violently – just because he participated in peaceful protests demanding justice for someone's murdered child, people, what you live in is a dictatorship. No question about it. https://t.co/hFvx3AcprO
— Aleksandar Brezar (@brezaleksandar) December 25, 2018
International officials in Bosnia have expressed concern over the situation and urged restraint.
Republika Srpska’s Interior Minister Dragan Lukac said at a press conference on Wednesday that they will not allow gatherings to take place at Krajina Square as it is a public space and should be accessible for all residents.
He added that the Justice For David group had used opposition politicians for their own political goals and that calls for taking down the police and other institutions are inappropriate.