Protesters turned out on March 10 for the second time to support for two deputy public prosecutors who were removed from their posts following a probe into suspected corruption at state-owned utility EPS.
Bojana Savovic and Jasmina Paunovic were both transferred to different departments after Savovic was removed from the EPS investigation, and Paunovic expressed support for her colleague.
The transfers were made shortly after six people were arrested in connection with the EPS investigation. Serbian police said on February 22 that six senior officials from state-owned companies, including EPS, had been arrested over the suspected embezzlement of $7.5mn.
Demonstrators on March 10 called for the dismissal of higher public prosecutor Nenad Stefanovic and his deputy Brankica Maric, as well as republic public prosecutor Zagorka Dolovac. They also demanded that Savovic and Paunovic be reinstated to their previous positions.
Participants in both protests, on March 2 when several thousand people turned out and again on March 10, chanted “We won’t give up our Lauras” – a reference to the former head of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), Laura Codruta Kovesi, who led probes into numerous current and former officials during her time at the helm of the organisation.
“We won’t give up our Lauras”: a post promoting the March 10 protest that has been widely shared on social media.
Following a concerted campaign by politicians, Kovesi was eventually removed from her position, but shortly afterwards was picked to head the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). Her career inspired efforts to fight corruption in other countries in the region as well as Serbia.
“We won’t give up our Lauras” has become a popular meme on social media as support for the two Serbian prosecutors grows, while the hashtag #nedamonaselaure is used to publicise demonstrations.
Meanwhile, disciplinary charges have been filed against Stefanovic by a group of deputy public prosecutors, who alleged that he "jeopardised the trust of the public in the Higher Public Prosecution" and "made obviously false statements”, N1 reported.
Deputy public prosecutor Milena Bozovic has started a petition to support her former colleagues, Savović and Paunovic, Savovic told Serbian daily Danas. Bozovic has now been asked by senior officials to explain her actions, including why she was collecting signatures during work time.