Serbia's opposition Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) said on Tuesday that President Aleksandar Vucic "unscrupulously" compared two incidents in which an actor and director punched a colleague on Monday morning and the other in which an SSP official was seriously beaten in the head with a metal bar in 2018.
SSP said that Vucic’s statement to the pro-regime Happy TV night talk-show that the attack on Predrag Antonijevic, the author of a disputed film about the WW II concentration camp in Jasenovac, Croatia, was „much more intense“ than the one on SSP deputy leader Borko Stefanovic, was a monstrous lie.
Masked men attacked Stefanovic with a metal bar ahead of an opposition debate in the central Krusevac town. He was hit in the head and needed medical assistance. SSP said that while Stefanovic was lying unconscious, an attacker kicked him in the head.
Stefanovic’s colleague and an ununiformed police officer were also hurt.
„If it were not for the reaction of the police officer in civilian clothes, this attack would probably have led to fatal consequences,“ the party added.
Dragan Bjelogrlic, an actor and director, punched Antonijevic several times in the head in a restaurant in early Monday morning before others separated them in a lobby of a hotel in the southern city of Nis where a film festival was taking place.
Bjelogrlic is a participant at the festival as an actor and director, while Antonijevic is said not to be either festival’s or hotel’s guest.
He is widely considered the regimes’ favourite director. After the fight, Bjelogrlic was detained for 48 hours and would face a prosecutor later on Tuesday.
It is still not known what caused the attack. Some eyewitnesses say it came after a verbal argument.
Antonijevic, who did not seek any medical aid, said he was attacked from behind. At the same time, a video that appeared on social networks minutes after the incident showed Bjelogrlic approached him from the front and started punching him in the head. Antonijevic defended himself by kicking Bjelogrlic.
SSP said there was no excuse for Bjelogrlic’s attack, and he should be held responsible according to the law. But, the party added that „Aleksandar Vucic and his mercenaries conduct a lynching campaign against the actor (Bjelogrlic).
„Claiming that (Bjelogrlic) he punched Antonijevic because of his film on Jasenovac is a lie and spreading it on all media tantamounts fascism,“ SSP said.
The 2018 attack on Stefanovic triggered mass anti-government protests across Serbia named „Stop to Bloody Shirts.“
The protests were later renamed ‘1 in 5 Million,’ after Vucic said, „even if five million of them gather, I won’t meet any of their demands.