Sejdić: Charges against protest organiser serve as threats

This article originally appeared on 21.4.2014 at slobodnaevropa.org

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Unsko-sanski canton has filed a minor offence charge against Aida Sejdić for organising a protest that was, as they claimed to the police, against the law. Speaking with Radio Slobodna Evropa, Sejdić comments on the charge as well as the fact that members of the network Bosansko proljeće (Bosnian Spring) are being threatened with redundancy if they should continue their protests.

Radio Slobodna Evropa: The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Unsko-sanski canton have filed a minor offence charge against you for organising a public protest on the 28th of March, which they claim infringes the law on public gatherings in the canton. They claim that you did not apply for permission to have the gathering four days in advance, as the law proscribes. Why didn’t you?

Sejdić: The only issue with this is that we didn’t announce the protests on time. However, there is a provision in the law that in unusual circumstances, protests can be announced just 48 hours in advance. We did announce our protes 48 hours in advance, but we didn’t explain why we didn’t announce it earlier. It was an error in technicalities, nothing serious, and we didn’t do it with bad intent.

RSE: At the time, you were given permission to protest, but you were also informed that charges would be filed against you. How would you describe this zeal in the police?

Sejdić: I commend them for their expedience when it comes to processing of charges against protesters and organisers of protests. We sincerely hope that they will be equally expedient when it comes to not just minor but also criminal offences by those who have brought us into this mess and who are, basically, responsible for the protests and everything that’s been happening in the country, not just for the past three months but for more than 20 years.

RSE: We are told that the Plenum of citizens in Mostar is under great pressure. Is Bosnian Spring in Bihać experiencing the same problems?

Sejdić: I wouldn’t say that it’s happening directly, but you could say these charges are an attempt to scare people or stop them from protesting because otherwise they risk being charged as I am. As well, people in government institutions have been told flat out that they risk termination if they attend protests and someone spots them there.

RSE: The economic situation being as difficult as it is, do you think that the threats you describe could influence the people in Bosnian Spring and that they will stop being as involved?

Sejdić: Unfortunately, that’s already happening, because the current social and economic situation is forcing people to fight for survival; they fear losing their salaries so they don’t come out even though I keep saying—faculty members are also afraid, they’re being threatened with termination if they are seen to be protesting.

RSE: Are you afraid of termination?

Sejdić: No, I’m not afraid. I’ve got nothing to fear because my contract runs until the 30th of June this year, so whether they fire me now or later, I’ll be unemployed again this year. But even if that’s the price for our struggle, then fine, it’s a price worth paying. What we do here is worth much more than a month’s salary or two. A day will come when justice and truth will prevail and when they will be the guiding principles not only of our people but of the politicians who will lead them and represent their opinions and interests.

RSE: Since you’re so involved in civic activism, are you worried that you’ll have trouble finding a job after the 30th of June?

Sejdić: I won’t claim that it doesn’t matter, but I repeat: I don’t want to think about fear, I won’t be led by fear, I want us to be led by the desire for change in our society, by courage, determination and perseverance to achieve our goals and have our demands met. I think that’s much more important because we’ve been living in fear for 20 years already.

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