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Fan group members charged with gruesome crimes in Serbia

July 30, 2021 GMT

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbian prosecutors filed charges Friday against 31 people, including members of a notorious soccer fan group, accusing them of murder, torture, kidnapping and drug trafficking, pro-government media reported.

Most of them were arrested in February. Since then, Serbia’s populist leaders and media that support them have been publishing photos and footage of their alleged crimes. Those images included alleged decapitations and getting rid of bodies by grinding the remains in a machine.

KRIK, a prominent Serbian independent investigative group, published the suspects’ testimonies after their arrests, in which they denied committing the crimes and saying some of them have met and served the interests of Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and other government officials.

Vucic and his Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin have vehemently denied those accusations, claiming they are being orchestrated by Serbia’s opposition parties in order to trigger public unrest and take power by force.

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Vucic and Vulin have suggested that the fan group members wanted to kill the head of state.

Serbia has a history of tolerating hooliganism that often resulted in violence and outbursts of nationalism at sports stadiums. During the Balkan wars in the 1990s, many of the violent soccer supporters joined notorious paramilitary groups linked to war crimes against other national groups in the former Yugoslavia.

With the return of nationalists to power in Serbia 10 years ago, far-right soccer supporters were often seen guarding pro-government gatherings and promoting their political agenda. In return, analysts say, the hooligans have been allowed to pursue their illegal business activities that focused on drug trafficking.

More than a dozen prominent figures from the country’s soccer supporters’ groups have been murdered in recent years. Most have perished in gangland-style killings.