Serbian police keep activists from mural of wartime general

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Police officers in Serbia’s capital were deployed Tuesday to a large wall painting of convicted Bosnian Serb wartime commander Ratko Mladic that activists wanted to paint over.

Police in Belgrade, citing the need to prevent possible clashes between the activists and right-wing nationalists who consider the Serb general a hero, had banned the activists from holding a gathering by the mural to mark the International Day Against Fascism and Antisemitism.

An international war crimes court sentenced Mladic to life in prison for genocide in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in 1995, when some 8,000 Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslims, were killed by his troops during the war in Bosnia.

Serbian officials have persistently denied that genocide was committed in Srebrenica, and the country’s nationalist authorities have tolerated the portrayal of convicted Serb war criminals, including Mladic, as freedom fighters.

Small groups of rights activists tried to gather at the downtown mural but were kept away by several uniformed and plainclothes police officers.

One activist, Aida Corovic, was taken away in a police van after hurling a few eggs at the mural.

Belgrade police said in a statement that officers were not protecting the wall painting but enforcing the ban on gatherings.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin has described the rights group’s plan to hold the gathering as “vile and led by evil intent”.

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