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Hundreds Join a Grieving Father's Silent Protest of Slow Hit-and-Run Investigation in Serbia

Bojan Jovanović, father of 21-year-old hit and run victim Luka Jovanović, in one of his "silent" protests on Branko Bridge in Belgrade. Photo courtesy of Telegraf.rs © 2014.

Bojan Jovanović, father of 21-year-old hit and run victim Luka Jovanović, in one of his “silent” protests on Branko Bridge in Belgrade. Photo courtesy of Telegraf.rs© 2014, used with permission.

Bojan Jovanović, father of a young hit-and-run victim from Belgrade, has been standing for 40 minutes every afternoon since Aug. 3, 2014 beside the place his son was hit just several nights before by a driver in a Mini Morris Countryman vehicle on Branko Bridge in Belgrade. Luka Jovanović, 21, was fixing his own car on Branko Bridge with several friends, when a car coming from the opposite direction ran over him, leaving him in a coma for two days, after which he died from the injuries.

The grieving father has stated that he will continue to stand from 4:30 p.m. every day for 40 minutes until the driver of the Mini Morris, who fled the scene after hitting young Jovanović, was identified and arrested. Bojan Jovanović was surprised to see 350 other Serbian residents join him on Branko Bridge on Sunday, Aug. 10, in a show of support. He told Serbian online news site Telegraf.rs, which also called on the public to support the protest, that he had seen the call for joining his protest on social networks but did not expect that many people to show up.

The image calling people to join the protest that is being spread by social media users throughout Serbia reads: "Let's take away their right to our lives!; BRANKO BRIDGE; every day at 4:30 p.m.." Image by unknown author, widely circulated online.

The image calling people to join the protest being spread by social media users throughout Serbia reads: “Let's take away their right to our lives!; BRANKO BRIDGE; every day at 4:30 p.m..” Image by unknown author, widely circulated online.

Jovanović also stated that he had nothing to do with promoting the protest on social networks or inviting others to join him, adding that his family had a good ongoing relationship with police officials investigating his son's death and that he believed authorities were doing all they could. “I am here today to prevail, not for my Luka, because he is gone, but for all our children,” Jovanović told Telegraf.rs.

Some, however, including Director of the Committee for Traffic Safety Damir Okanović, believe that authorities are not doing enough to find the hit-and-run driver and vehicle. Okanović stated for Serbian B92 network:

On je istakao da je teško prihvatljivo da policija već 15 dana nije identifikovala vozilo, a prema snimcima s kamera koji su objavljeni u beogradskim medijima, reč je o automobilu “mini moris”.

“Nisu kamere jedini trag, tu su i podaci sa baznih stanica mobilne telefonije i delovi vozila zatečeni na licu mesta. Kada se ukrste ti tragovi, može da se suzi sumnja na određen broj ljudi, a onda operativnim radom može da se utvrdi da li je neko od tih ljudi umešan u ovo krivično delo”, ocenio je Okanović.

Komentarišući izjave policijskih zvaničnika da su pojedine kamere u Beogradu neupotrebljive i zastarele, on je istakao da je onda vreme da se to promeni i da postoje sredstva za to.

“Osam miliona evra izdvojeno je u proteklih pet godina po Zakonu o osiguranju u saobraćaju. U poseban Fond za video-nadzor od tih osam miliona evra, prema našim podacima, nijedna kamera nije kupljena u Srbiji. A sa druge strane, ne zna se šta je sa tim novcem”, naveo je Okanović.

On je rekao da se u slučaju stradanja 21-godišnjeg mladića može postaviti pitanje da li je od samog početka reakcija policije bila odgovarajuća.

[Okanović] stressed that it is difficult to accept that police have not identified the vehicle in 15 days [since the hit and run], while the video footage that [police] provided Belgrade media clearly shows that it was a “mini morris” vehicle [which are fairly rare in Belgrade].

“Cameras are not the only lead, there is also data from mobile telephone base stations and parts of the vehicle found at the scene. When those leads are crossed, suspicion can be narrowed down to a certain number of people, allowing operative work to confirm whether any of those people were involved in this crime,” Okanović assessed.

Commenting on statements made by police officials that individual cameras in Belgrade were useless and out-dated, he emphasized that it must be time to replace them and that there are funds available for that.

“Eight million euros have been allocated in the last five years according to the Law on Traffic Insurance. With the particular Fund for Video Surveillance, of those eight million euro, according to our data, no cameras have been purchased in Serbia. On the other hand, no one knows what is happening with that money,” Okanović stated.

He said that in the case of the death of the 21-year-old young man, questions could be asked as to whether the reaction of police was adequate from the very beginning.

Groups of citizens, like the Blog Open association of Serbian bloggers, seem to agree with Okanović's assessment of those like Okanović. Blog Open also joined in the protest of Bojan Jovanović, promoting the protest on social media and their blog, saying:

Budući da su očevici naveli da je reč o vozilu mini moris „Countryman“ kakvih ima veoma malo u Srbiji i Beogradu, i imajući u vidu činjenicu da svi mediji u Srbiji, osim Politike, danima prećutkuju ovaj slučaj uz sasvim moguću preporuku da se tako ponašaju, sumnja i strepnja da neko štiti ovog hit and run vozača, izazvala je burne reakcije na mrežama, koje su konačno proizvele da građani sa klikova i fejvova, izađu na mostove i podrže oca.

Na Brankovom mostu se okupilo oko 350 Beograđana sa istim pitanjem: Ko je vozač iz Kantrimena? Koga štitite?

U nekoliko drugih gradova pojedinci su izašli na mostove u svojim gradovima, s istim pitanjem.

Okupljeni tviteraši su poručili nadležnima u MUP-u da Bojan Jovanović nije sam u svom tihom protestu i da je neophodno da hitno pronađu vozača crnog mini morisa koji je udario mladića i pobegao sa lica mesta.

Considering that witnesses claim that this was a Mini Morris “Countryman” vehicle, of which there are very few in Serbia and Belgrade, and taking into account that all media in Serbia, except [state-owned] Politika, have been silent about this matter with the very plausible recommendation to do so, suspicion and fear that someone is protecting this hit-and-run driver has caused tempestuous reactions on [social] networks, which has finally led citizens, from clicks and faves, to go out on the bridges and support the father.

About 350 Belgraders gathered on Branko Bridge with the same question: Who was the driver in the Countryman? Who are you protecting?

The gathered Twitter users let officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs know that Bojan Jovanović is not alone in his silent protest and that it is imperative that the driver of the black Mini Morris who hit the young man and fled the scene be found immediately.

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