Protests and denials: Bosnia in uproar over student’s death

Davor Dragicevic
The Associated Press

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Serb lawmakers discussed security Thursday in their mini-state in Bosnia after a student’s death triggered a month of daily protests and cover-up accusations against top police officials.

David Dragicevic, 21, disappeared in March and his body was found a week later in a river in Banja Luka, the biggest town in Republika Srpska.

Police initially said Dragicevic had killed himself after taking drugs and robbing a house. That outraged his father, Davor Dragicevic, who insists his son was killed.

His “Justice for David” movement has organized more than a month of daily protests that have become a challenge to the government of President Milorad Dodik. Thousands have rallied in Banja Luka and other towns in the Serb part of Bosnia, while more than 200,000 people have backed the movement on social media.

The protest has also reflected popular discontent with Bosnia’s low living standards, widespread corruption and persisting ethnic tensions more than two decades after its bloody 1992-95 war.

Davor Dragicevic, speaking at a special session in parliament Thursday, claimed his son had been kept in captivity and was tortured and beaten before he was killed. He accused top police officials of covering up the crime, which they denied, but did not say what he thought motivated the alleged cover-up.

“There was not a single part of his body that wasn’t beaten up,” Dragicevic told lawmakers. “I want truth and justice!”

Dragicevic insisted that top police officials “tried to hide the murder” and were therefore “accomplices.”

Interior Minister Dragan Lukac denied the accusations in parliament, and threatened legal action. He read the autopsy report during his address, saying it showed that David Dragicevic had drowned and had alcohol and drugs in his system.

“The accusations (of cover-up) were made without any evidence,” he said. “If you know who the killers are, why don’t you name names?”

Dodik, the Bosnian Serb president, says Dragicevic’s movement is being used politically to weaken the Bosnian Serb police and help put them under control of the joint institutions in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, which most Serbs oppose.

A peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war in 1995 created a Serb and a Muslim-Croat entity in a unified Bosnian state but tensions between the former war foes still persist.

Some 100,000 people were killed in the conflict and millions were left homeless.