Serb police ban gay parade citing security risks

Wed Oct 3, 2012 4:03pm EDT
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By Aleksandar Vasovic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serb police have banned a gay rights parade planned for Belgrade on Saturday and all other public gatherings this weekend, fearing attacks by rightist and ultra-nationalist groups.

Serbia outlawed the 2011 Belgrade Pride parade at the last moment, fearing a repetition of the previous year's violence when dozens were injured and arrested as protesters opposed to the parade clashed with police.

"The ban is imposed on the basis of security assessments," Milorad Veljovic, the director of police, said on Wednesday.

Conservative societies across the Balkans have been slow to accept greater gay rights, and similar events across the region have often ended in violence.

The three-month-old government, made up of nationalists and Socialists once led by late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, is under pressure to demonstrate its readiness to allow the parade and protect human rights to keep Serbia's bid to join the European Union on track.

Boban Stojanovic, a gay rights activist and one of the parade's organisers, said the ban "has shown that the state has once again backed down before hooligans and violence".

"Our problem is not that we will not march on October 6, but how we will cope with persistent persecution," Stojanovic said.

Swedish European Affairs Minister Birgitta Ohlsson said in a statement she had been due to give a keynote speech at the event and criticised the decision as "deeply troubling".   Continued...