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British citizen among 71 people arrested in Serbia after protesting government response to Covid-19

There have been protests for four consecutive nights in several Serbian cities.

Protesters clash with riot police on the steps of the Serbian parliament in Belgrade last night.
Protesters clash with riot police on the steps of the Serbian parliament in Belgrade last night.
Image: Darko Vojinovic via PA Images

SERBIAN POLICE HAVE said they have arrested 71 people, including a British citizen and a Tunisian citizen, after violence broke out during a protest in Belgrade against the government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of people demonstrated in several Serbian cities last night for a fourth day in row, with protesters hurling stones at police in front of parliament in the capital.

Some protesters also threw firecrackers and chanted nationalist slogans in Belgrade, according to AFP journalists.

“Among those arrested are many foreign nationals from Bosnia, Montenegro but also from Great Britain and Tunisia,” police chief Vladimir Rebić said at a press conference.

virus-outbreak-serbia Hundreds of demonstrators tried to storm Serbia's parliament on Friday, clashing with police who fired tear gas. Source: Darko Vojinovic

Photographs of the British and Tunisian passports of two men were shown on a screen.

According to local media, mostly tabloids close to power, the Briton is 24 years old, while the Tunisian is 54.

“These are the documents with which they entered Serbia,” said Rebić, who added that he intends to examine the influence of “these foreign factors on the violence of the demonstrations”.

Serbia welcomed them hoping that they would come to have a good time with us, but they came to destroy and attack the police.

virus-outbreak-serbia A protester kneels in front of riot police on the steps of the Serbian parliament. Source: Marko Drobnjakovic

Fourteen police officers were injured in yesterday’s clashes, and 130 since the protests began on Tuesday, the police chief said. No figures have been given for the number of injured protesters.

The protesters have vented their frustration with President Aleksandar Vučić, who is seen by many as having facilitated a second wave of the virus by lifting an initial lockdown so that elections could be held on 21 June, which his Serbian Progressive Party largely won.

The first demonstration on Tuesday was triggered after Vučić announced the return of a weekend curfew to combat a second wave of coronavirus infections that has overwhelmed hospitals in Belgrade.

The president later backtracked on his plan, but the protests continued, turning into a general rebuke of his handling of the health crisis.

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© – AFP 2020

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