After promising ‘democracy’, pro-NATO gov't arrests 7,000

By John Catalinotto, Workers World, 17 April 2003

Since the assassination of Serbian Premier Zoran Djindjic on March 12, the NATO-backed Serbian state has waged a terror campaign against the citizens of that country, especially against the remaining political opposition.

A state of emergency continues. Some 7,000 people were arrested, with 2,000 held in prison for investigation, say both European press accounts and dispatches direct from Belgrade. There can be no criticism of the government, no demonstrations or strikes. Not even public statements are allowed. The threat is now that parties will be forbidden.

Special police units stand in the streets, masked and heavily armed, with a license to kill. Two people were already shot dead by the police on March 26.

The government claims to be hunting down and breaking up organized crime gangs. And some of those arrested were apparently connected to these gangs. Organized crime has flourished since the overturn of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)-led government in October 2000 and so many of the formerly state-owned industries were privatized.

Since the NATO-puppet Djindjic had his own connections with the crime gangs, it is reasonable to suspect that organized crime had something to do with his murder.

But it is becoming more and more obvious that the main target of the government witch-hunt has been activists on the left. The ruin of the Serbian economy has aroused so much opposition that the current pro-NATO regime has to fear the consequences of any fair election, not to mention strikes by workers.

The regime has especially targeted those activists associated with former President Slobodan Milosevic, who has been so successful for over a year in contesting phony war-crimes charges in a NATO court in The Hague, Netherlands.

Vladimir Krsljanin and Bogoljub Blelica, who heads the group SLOBODA in Belgrade working for the defense of President Milosevic, were arrested toward the end of March. Police also confiscated computers. Krsljanin has since been released, but Blelica was still being held as of April 5.

The regime has also brought charges against Mira Markovic, Milosevic's wife and formerly a leader of the Yugoslav United Left party.

Milosevic's defenders are concerned that the regime will put those in jail under enormous pressure to testify against the former president in the trial at The Hague, especially those who themselves might face charges there.