AP Interview: Serb govt vows far-right crackdown

AP News
Posted: Oct 13, 2010 1:14 PM
AP Interview: Serb govt vows far-right crackdown

Serbia's interior minister said Wednesday the government will crack down on rising far-right groups trying to destabilize the Balkan country's pro-Western government.

Interior Minister Ivica Dacic told The Associated Press that anti-gay rioters and the fans who disrupted a soccer match against Italy belong to the same extremist groups.

"Generally, those are extremist groups that existed for years and are registered in police files and their members have been arrested in the past," Dacic said.

"They have various goals and are looking for various reasons for violence," he said. "The state must react to protect public peace. Now, all depends on the judiciary."

More than 150 people were hurt Sunday in downtown Belgrade in running battles with police as thousands of far-right demonstrators tried to disrupt a gay pride march by hurling firebombs and stun grenades at police.

Nearly 250 people were arrested after the riots, and 66 have been ordered to remain in custody for 30 days as a pretrial detention measure.

An Italy-Serbia European championship qualifier game was abandoned Tuesday in Italy when Serbia fans threw flares and fireworks onto the pitch, burned a flag and broke barriers.

"The Serbs are experts at shooting themselves in the foot," Dacic said. "The whole of Europe was watching what happened at the stadium yesterday."

Serbia's National Security Council, which is chaired by President Boris Tadic, was meeting Tuesday to discuss measures to be taken after the riots.

The Serbian fan groups are known to be infiltrated by neo-Nazis and other extremists with a staunch anti-Western agenda. The rise of the extremism in Serbia is attributed to the economic crisis and a lack of jobs in the wake of the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

"Those groups have a number of supporters, but I'm sure their strength is not big enough to jeopardize the state order," Dacic said.

On Wednesday, a far-right group demanded that those arrested after the weekend rioting be released and warned of a "bloodbath" if the government fails to comply.

"Serbia is on the verge of a civil unrest, we are facing serious social problems when people will come out in the streets who will be more serious and much more determined," the "Dveri" group said in a statement.

The group, which claims to advocate traditional Serb family values and religion, called for a public debate about the country's pro-European Union path, saying that "a new social agreement should include arguments of those who believe that the EU has an alternative."

Senior justice ministry official Slobodan Homen said Wednesday that the forces behind the anti-gay and soccer riots want to stop the pro-EU changes in Serbia.

"They want to close us into a shell, disgrace the whole country and push us back into nothingness," he said.


Associated Press writer Jovana Gec contributed to this report.