December 5, 2008 / 8:18 PM / 11 years ago

Croats stage anti-government "Facebook rally"

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Several thousand Croats demanding early elections, better welfare and education protested against the government in the capital Zagreb Friday, in a rally organized by Web activists.

Protesters shout anti-government slogans during a rally at Zagreb's mine square December 5, 2008. The rally, entitled "tighten your own belts, you criminal gang", called for more responsible behaviour of the political elite towards the impoverished population. REUTERS/Nikola Solic

Anti-government protesters gathered in the city’s main square called on Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to “go away” in response to his plea that Croats cut their spending in the face of the global financial crisis.

“I came here to voice my discontent with the current situation in Croatia, which has been caused by the government,” said one protester, who was too afraid to be named.

“We simply demand better conditions for every individual in Croatia,” he said.

The rally, which was staged in several Croatian towns, went ahead after police apologized Wednesday for detaining a Web activist who had put up posters calling for the protest.

The man was part of a group on Facebook, the online social networking site, of more than 60,000 members.

Several Internet activists have been held and interrogated by the police for criticizing the government in the last few days.

Wednesday’s apology emerged when Sanader, faced with criticism from the opposition and media, asked the interior ministry to investigate the possible abuse of police powers.

Government spokesman Zlatko Mehun said the police would not harass people taking part in the rally Friday as long as they did not break the law.

“The government will carefully analyze the messages from the protests and they may well play a role in our future activities and decisions,” he added.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Katie Nguyen

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