RS Police Continues to Intimidate the Bosniaks of Prijedor
by Ekrem Tinjak
The matter is now in the hands of Željko Gnjatović, deputy public prosecutor of Prijedor. It is up to him whether Emsuda Mujagić, president of the NGO Srcem do mira from Kozarac, Nefisa Kulenović, president of the NGO Familija from Prijedor, and Zlatan Krkić, an interpreter working for Prijedor municipality, will be charged. If they are, it will mean that prosecutor Gnjatović has established that the above-mentioned trio fanned religious, national and ethnic hatred.
Watch out for human bones!
The recent ‘informal questioning’, which is what the Prijedor and European police call it, or ‘arrest’, which is what those questioned call it, was caused by a leaflet. According to the Prijedor police, the leaflet is inflammatory, while for the three and the Bosniaks of Prijedor it simply tells the truth.
The leaflet was distributed at a recent meeting of the Forum of Municipalities, the fourth of its kind, organized by the Prijedor municipality and sponsored by the European Union. It says in Bosnian and English that 3,227 people, including 122 children, were killed in this city in 1992. ‘TAKE CARE!!! when walking the streets of this city, because you may step on the bones of one of the victims. Try to persuade the local authorities to identify the location of the mass graves where 1,500 victims remain buried’, said the leaflet among other things. It was signed: ‘Families of the missing and killed citizens of Prijedor’. Each side of the leaflet carried the photograph of a human skull half covered by grass.
The purpose of the Forum is to discuss the municipality’s economic development, so it was attended by various parties as well as by the local NGOs. ‘The NGO Izvor from Sanski Most, whose exclusive concern is to search for missing persons, was too late in registering with the Forum, so its president asked me to present some of their material, in particular a book about missing persons called Innocent Victims. I didn’t know anything about the leaflet’, says Emsuda Mujagić.
The leaflet’s picture and contents drew the attention of Zlatan Krkić, who approached Emsuda and asked her: ‘Have you seen this?’. Before she could reply, an inspector of the Prijedor police came up and asked Zlatan to accompany him. ‘I saw him being taken away in a police car’, says Esmuda. She had no idea they were taking him away because of the leaflet. ‘The evening before, the deputy mayor of Prijedor municipality, who had been rather drunk, had verbally abused the young man, so I thought they were taking him away for that reason’, says Emsuda.
That day, however, after she had finished her work at the Forum and was going home, she again met the inspector. This time he approached her and asked her to go with him to the police station. The police questioned Zlatan Krekić for seven and a half hours and Esmuda for four and a half. The following day Nefisa Kulenović too was taken to the police station. The police wanted to know who had printed the leaflet and why, what they thought about its contents, and what they intended to say with it. Eventually all three were asked to sign the police transcript, in which they were described as ‘suspected of fanning religious, national and ethnic intolerance, under RS Criminal Law, article 130'.
Emsuda at first refused to sign the transcript, since she did not wish to be suspected of something she had not done, and which was not true. ‘The leaflet does not mention the nationality of either the victims or the criminals. On the other hand, it is true that these people have not been found’, says Emsuda. They explained to her that she could prove this in the court, if the prosecutor decided to press charges. So she signed.
After he heard what had happened, the author of the leaflet Edin Ramulić rang the Prijedor police. ‘The police gave me various telephone numbers, but not the number of the inspector in charge of the case. I told them that I was the author and that I was happy to be questioned, but it made no difference’, says Ramulić.
She kept records in Omarska
Ramulić says that if the leaflet does inflame ethnic hatred and intolerance, he would ready to go to prison. This case has frightened the Bosniaks of Prijedor. They are more circumspect. This is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that one of those arrested was so frightened that, when filling in a form, she wrote ‘undetermined’ in the entry for nationality.
Their fear was fanned by Nada Markovski, the court scribe. It may sound shocking, but it is true: in 1992 she was taking notes for the interrogators in Omarska concentration camp, during their questioning of the Bosniak and Croat inmates. The survivors recall that those whose statements were recorded by Markovski are all dead. Nada Markovski also appeared at The Hague as a witness for the defence in the case of Milomir Stakić.
We wanted to ask Vojislav Pelkić, head of the security services in Prijedor, what in the leaflet had made the police act as they did; but he was absent from his office throughout our visit to the city, and no one else could give us the information. What is interesting about the police station in question is that affixed to the wall facing the registration desk there is a marble plaque with images and names of ‘Defenders of the Fatherland’. The images are arranged to form a cross.
We thought that the municipal mayor Nada Ševo might wish to tell us her views on the events, but we were told that she had gone to Belgrade to attend a wedding.
Prosecutor Gnjatović, however, was at his desk. He told us that the police had forwarded the case to him, but he had not yet looked at it. ‘I have so many cases, more important ones: crime, drugs...’, said Gnjatović. He remarked that the case had been blown up by the media, who had given it a political connotation. ‘Call me at the end of next week and I’ll tell you what I have decided.’, said Gnjatović. He added that representatives of the European police and of OSCE had come to se him about this. He did not tell us what they had talked about. We asked Gnjatović what sort of sentence was possible, if he were to press charges and the court found in his favour. ‘Two years in prison’, he replied.
Watch out, filming in process!
What is particularly interesting is that, outside the media, there was no other reaction. Amid this silence, one might mention an incident involving Muharem Murselović, a deputy in the RS assembly for the municipality of Prijedor.
‘On the last day of the Forum, I came to see what the matter was. I knew nothing about the leaflets. A policeman at the entrance wearing a ‘security’ tag took my picture with a video recorder. I thought at first he was a journalist’, says Murselović. He added that after the arrest one could hear that it was all Murselović’s doing. This led him to question RS interior minister Zoran Đerić at the last meeting of the RS assembly. ‘He told me to visit him and talk about it. I asked if I could get the cassette. I said I did not know that filming was part of police work. I could not resist asking him: “Are you making a new dossier on myself and other Bosniaks? If you are, tell us, so that we know”,’ said Murselović.
Local Serbs did not want to talk about this case. Those who knew about it felt that the leaflet’s contents were offensive. Local Serb politicians think that the leaflet should not have been distributed at that meeting, because it ‘blew’ potential donations. The Bosniaks, on the other hand, think that the arrest was meant to send a message to those who have returned. They say that the leaflet told the truth.
Željko Gnjatović got two typed pages of notes from the police, as well as the leaflet itself as material evidence. He was going to read this and decide, and if necessary ask for an additional investigation. Many people are saying that his problem is how to decide between justice and the possible pressure exerted by some politicians. The suspects are prepared for all eventualities - though they believe that they did nothing wrong. ‘It is well known how much I have done since 1996 to achieve reconciliation. It is absurd that I am now suspected of fanning intolerance’, says Emsuda.
At the markets in Prijedor one can buy T-shirts portraying Radovan Karadzić, Draža Mihajlović, Ratko Mladić. Some local people love wearing these T-shirts. Calendars with these men’s pictures sell well. Do such items inflame ethnic hatred? According to the Prijedor police, they do not. We know what it is that bothers them.
Muharem Murselović was mayor of the municipality of Prijedor, but he resigned after its assembly adopted as its emblem a cross with four C’s in place of the former sun. He spent time in Omarska and Trnopolje concentration camps. ‘I was always against the theory being applied in Bosnia-Herzegovina according to which only good and loyal Serbs should return to the Federation and only good and loyal Bosniaks to RS. According to this theory, we who now live in Prijedor should be happy that we are alive. And it is not important that our neighbours, relatives and friends have disappeared. I reject this theory. The families of the dead and missing persons who signed the leaflet are right to cry to God and demand that their loved ones be returned to them, even as bones. They cannot forget them. I thought at first that the Forum was perhaps not the right place, but I am now convinced that it was. The foreigners should know what happened in Prijedor - though most of them know it already’, says Murselović.
On The Hague list of defendants, nineteen have been charged with crimes committed in Prijedor. The wartime mayor of the municipality, Milorad Stakić, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for what happened in the Omarska and Trnopolje concentration camps.
Translated from Start (Sarajevo), 7 October 2003