Residents of the divided city of Mostar say such attacks do not help the long process of reconciliation between Croats and Bosniaks.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Mostar -- 07/07/2014
Mostar University professor Slavo Kukic was beaten for criticising the hero's welcome given former Bosnian Croat leader Dario Kordic, who was released from prison. [klix.ba]
An outspoken critic of the hero's welcome given to freed war criminal Dario Kordic promised that he will not stop speaking out against fascism and corruption, even after being beaten and hospitalised.
"They can beat me or even kill me, but they cannot kill the spirit in a man who opposes everything that is fascist," Mostar University professor Slavo Kukic told SETimes. "They did not manage to intimidate me. I will continue to warn of fascism in this country, the crime and corruption, all those bad occurrences that plague the citizens of this country. Fascists and those who support them will eventually be defeated. It is only important that we, as citizens, as a nation not back up, we must not be afraid, we must not stop the criticism."
Authorities said that Kukic was assaulted after the return of Kordic, who was freed after serving 17 years of his 25-year war-crimes sentence for ordering an attack on the village of Ahmici in 1993, during which 116 Bosniak civilians, including children, women and the elderly, were murdered.
Kordic was greeted by a public celebration in his hometown of Busovaca, which was attended by representatives of the Croatian Democratic Union, the party that governs the Mostar area. He also received a welcome from supporters at Zagreb airport, and a Croatian Catholic bishop led a service of thanksgiving for his return.
Kukic, an ethnic Croat, said that his assailant entered his office at the economics faculty in Mostar and asked if he was Slavo Kukic. When he said yes, the man started hitting him.
Police said that the attacker used a baseball bat and hit Kukic on the head and other parts of the body. The attacker is a man from Mostar whose name the police wouldn't announce publicly because of the continuing investigation.
"He is a middle-aged man who surrendered himself to the police after which he was arrested. He said that his motive was the bitterness he experienced after the professor's criticism in the media in which the professor talked about the glorification and celebration of Dario Kordic, convicted war criminal. He is currently in prison and being handed over to the prosecutor for further processing," Srecko Bosnjak, a spokesman for the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton Interior Ministry, told SETimes.
Senior officials and political parties condemned the attack on Kukic, noting that the authorities must do everything possible to prevent such harassment and violence from repeating and becoming part of political life of Mostar.
"Any attempt to instil fear or incite violence, hatred or discrimination against individuals or groups based on their political affiliation cannot have any place in BiH society today," Peter Sorensen, head of the delegation of the EU to BiH and the EU Special Representative, said in a statement.
Dario Kordic (centre), is greeted by hundreds of people on June 6th at the airport in Zagreb. [AFP]
Svetozar Pudaric, vice president of the Federation of BiH, harshly condemned the attack, requesting that the police urgently undertake all measures to discover the perpetrator and the one who ordered the attack.
"And since I doubt that it was a politically motivated terrorist act, I am asking for investigations by the federal police department because of my suspicion of partiality on the part of the investigative organs of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton," Pudaric told SETimes.
Twenty-five years since the start of the war, ethnicity is still a deep dividing line in Mostar. The community of 100,000 people has two electricity companies, two phone networks, two postal services, two utility services and two universities. Croat and Bosniak children still go to separate classes, learning from different textbooks.
Such attacks don't help the reconciliation process, some residents said.
"I cannot imagine how someone can bash up a person just because he thinks differently. This is not the way to improve our situation. We are already divided, we don't need any more segregation. Officials should react quickly," Ibran Musa, 39, a bakery owner from Mostar, told SETimes.
Kukic, who often takes Bosnian Croat political leaders to task, said that no one should be proud of the event such as the welcome for Kordic.
"This was the price I had to pay. This had nothing to do with my professional career as a professor, but had to do with the fact that I often stand out as an intellectual and am critical," he told SETimes.
Why do you think celebrations of fascism and extremism are harmful for efforts of reconciliation? Add your thoughts in the space below.