According to the Republic of Kosovo, I am now a convicted criminal after the Kosovo Policedecided that I had my microphone too close to them and accusing them of not doing their job comparing them to monkeys. The Municipal Court of Minor Offenses in Priština sentenced me today to pay a fine of €500 for violating the Law of Peace and Order.
The day of Vidovdan on June 28 is one of the most important commemorations for the Serbian national identity, and together with a few thousand Serbs, I traveled to Kosovo as a journalist to cover these events and to record any incidents. Of course I did not plan to be a part of the action myself, but I became an involuntary part of the story after I was the victim of harassment from the Kosovo Police.
The authorities in Kosovo are very sensitive to anything that they feel could be provoking, and most Albanians get quite upset when people display Serbian national symbols and flags. I was aware of this when I approached the Gazimestan monument outside Priština. Because I wanted to pay my respect to the Serbian Vidovdan, I had brought a t-shirt and a hat with the Serbian flag. However, because I knew how sensitive the Kosovo Police was, I put my t-shirt in my suitcase and the hat in my pocket because I had no intention of provoking an incident.
A Serbian flag is not in any way any political signal, just my way of showing respect for Vidovdan, but apparently, this was a provocation in the eyes of the Kosovo Police. At Gazimestan I tried to get hold of a commander or a spokesman to defend the actions of the Kosovo Police, but the result was that I was arrested.
The Kosovo Police has no reason to be proud of themselves after the way they behaved yesterday. Their job is to provide a safe and secure environment, but their active acts of provocation did exactly the opposite. When the Kosovo Police searched me, they threw my t-shirt and hat in the ditch beside the road and said very rudely “This is Albania; this is not Serbia.” For a normal civilian to say that Kosovo is Albania, shows that the person is quite nationalistic, but when a representative of the rule of law says the same, it is much more serious. Then an official representative of Kosovo displays Albanian nationalism in a place that in theory should be a multi-ethnic mingling pot for all national minorities. I was not allowed to retrieve these clothes, and the police officers did not say how I could complain about this treatment.
After 3:28 in this video, you will see me asking for EULEX, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, but the arrogant Kosovo Police was not cooperative at all. If they wanted a smooth operation, they could have said something like this: “Sir, I will now call my commander to give you a response how you can contact someone who can answer your questions,” but instead, they kept silent.
The Serbian police officer Gordana Grujić working for the Kosovo Police.
The Kosovo Police is an interesting creation, and there are a few Serbs working there. The police officer who was most active in charging me was in fact the Serbian woman Gordana Grujić with police ID #8097. She works at the Northern Police station in Priština, not in a Serbian enclave but an area completely dominated by Albanians. In her witness statement to the court, Grujić said that I offended her and her country when I accused them of not doing their job and provoking incidents. Serbian police officers in the Kosovo Police are not always popular in their own communities, and it is interesting that Grujić and other Serbian police officers are more loyal to the new state creation of Kosovo than their own people.
If I regret something, I could have been too close to the police officers with my microphone, but after looking at the video recordings, I cannot see that I was physically touching anyone. Yet, in her witness statement, Grujić said that I behaved violently, but the judge corrected that to aggressive in the official transcript. Although I am not at all happy with the sentence, I will give Judge Azra Cakolli credit for making a neutral account of the events.
I have nothing to hide, and therefore I have made the English version of my sentence andthe witness statements of four police officers and myself in Albanian available. Although Serbian is an official language in Kosovo, Judge Cakolli refused me these witness statements in Serbian.
However, my overall impression is that Judge Cakolli is a hard-working and honest lady, and she treated me correctly. Also, when I was arrested, the Kosovo Police was doing everything by the book and contacted the Norwegian Embassy in Priština. Thank you very much to First Secretary Guldbrand Haugen for being present during my trial.
In the sentence it reads that I am “deeply remorseful for disrespecting the officials,” but this is not correct. I apologized for maybe being too close with my microphone, but I am not at all sorry for hurting the feelings of a Serbian policewoman working for the Albanian-dominated state of Kosovo, and I am not at all sorry for pointing out the unprofessional behavior of the Kosovo Police comparing them to monkeys.
Of course, I have to mention that there are many good and honest people working in Kosovo Police, and the three other Albanian police officers who witnessed against me, shook my hand. With Gordana Grujić it was different. She refused to shake my hand and said that my apology for being too close with the microphone means nothing. It is quite interesting how a Serbian woman defends the Albanian-dominated state with such fervor. Police officers should be professionals and not get emotional and personally hurt like Grujić.
Kosovo aspires to be a member of the European Union with respect for basic human rights, freedom of speech and expression, but yesterday many Kosovo Police officers showed that they are behaving like monkeys with no respect respect for freedom of expression. After my sentence, I can say that this applies to the whole state-creation of Kosovo. This cannot be a functioning multi-ethnic community with this kind of behavior from the police.
Previously, I have said that I am opposed to the state creation of Kosovo, and I have outlined much of this concern in my book project Sorry Serbia. After these incidents where “Serbs were attacked with firebombs and ‘Cyrillic t-shirts’ banned,” I am more concerned for the future of Kosovo.
We have also seen international reactions to the excessive use of force. The OSCE Mission in Kosovo condemns violent incidents, and the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Werner Almhofer writes the following: “I am concerned about reports of excessive use of force by some police officers, and I call on the Kosovo Police Inspectorate to investigate any police misconduct.”
Farid Zarif, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, strongly condemned the “incidents and provocative acts,” in a statement issued by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Zarif called on the authorities to conduct a complete and thorough investigation into the incidents.
Of course, I am not going to accept the fine given to me, and I would need good legal representation in my appeal of my sentence and my planned lawsuit against the Kosovo Police for harassment. I need people on my side who are willing to fight for the freedom of speech against the Republic of Kosovo. It would also be good if someone could help me to carry the legal costs. From today, I have eight days to appeal my sentence, and everyone with good suggestions how to proceed are welcome to contact me on +381 628 406 604 firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS: I see that a picture of Gordana Grujić with blood on her face has appeared on the Internet. Let me be very clear: I do not condone violence or the threat of violence, and this picture could be understood as a threat of violence. You should meet Grujić’s actions with good arguments only. These kind of pictures only portrays those who post these pictures in a primitive way.