Serbian activists hope not hit by Terrorism law

BELGRADE, Jun 29, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbia's student-based protest movement Otpor said on Wednesday the expected adoption of a new anti-terrorism law this week would not stop its activities.

Activists, seeking to underline that they are interested only in non-violent political change, said they hoped the law was not designed to stifle them.

"Right now we want to hope, and do hope, that the law is not directed against Otpor, its members and in general against all those who think differently than Slobodan Milosevic," activist Vukasin Petrovic told reporters.

Yugoslav authorities on Tuesday released details of the draft law which lawyers said was clearly targeted against the Yugoslav president's opponents, both in Serbia and Montenegro, its pro-Western partner in the troubled federation.

Petrovic preferred to give the government the benefit of the doubt, saying he expected the law to be directed against genuine "terrorists".

But Aleksandar Visnjic, an activist from Serbia's southern city of Nis, said he was afraid that even if the authorities may not use the law immediately, they might whip it out when they feel the opposition is gaining strength.

"Even though the law may pass unnoticed now, it is a good weapon to use if at one moment they feel they will lose elections, it can be a way to obstruct the opposition."


He said the police already had the names, fingerprints and photos of many Otpor activists who had been detained across Serbia and could easily round them up whenever they wanted.

"All that has to happen is for someone (else) to plant a bomb for instance, and they can bring us all in."

Government officials have already accused Otpor of planting bombs in offices of the ruling coalition. Otpor has denied any link with the explosions, alleging they were planted by the authorities themselves to discredit the protest movement.

In May the authorities blamed Otpor, whose name means Resistance, and the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement for the murder of a senior official of Milosevic's Socialist party and have openly called Otpor a terrorist organization.

They have frequently arrested Otpor activists during their various actions across Serbia, usually releasing them after a few hours of "informative talks". Otpor says 226 activists were arrested in May and 179 so far in June.

"We will continue our actions regardless of the terrorism law. Over the next few days we will have several very important actions," Petrovic said.

These were mainly aimed at ridiculing the government by mimicking its award ceremonies and highly-publicized reconstruction after NATO's air strikes last year.

Petrovic was encouraged by the fact that pro-government media had not targeted Otpor recently and said the government would in any case not be able to arrest all its sympathizers.

"Otpor is an idea and is in the heads of discontented people. There are not as many prisons in this country as there are dissatisfied people."

Original article