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Serbian Antigovernment Protesters Hold 12th Weekend Rally
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Thousands of people demonstrated in the streets of Belgrade for a 12th straight Saturday on February 23 – an act of protest against Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

In what has become a routine, the demonstrators assembled at a central square in Belgrade and marched toward the headquarters of Serbia’s state television -- chanting slogans in protest of Vucic's control over state media and calling for fair elections.

The crowd followed a large banner bearing the protests' motto of "1 of 5 million," which refers to Vucic's dismissal of demands put forward by protesters in December.

Vucic said in December that he "wouldn't bow to a single demand" even if there were 5 million demonstrators in the streets.

Protest organizers have so far refused to be placed under the leadership of any political bloc.

But they agreed a week ago to what they describe as a "contract" with opposition politicians in order to pursue reforms.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders last week launched a boycott of the national and local legislatures in a show of support for the protesters.

Many of the older protesters demonstrated against the government of the late Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s.

Now they say they are disillusioned by the lack of change more than 18 years after Milosevic lost power.

Vucic was Milosevic's coalition partner from 1998 to 2000 and was information minister at the time of Serbia's harshest crackdown on independent media.

But protesters also mistrust the opposition, saying they have done little to fight against corruption, economic inefficiency, and poverty in Serbia.

Based on reporting by dpa and AP
Turkish journalist Can Dundar

Washington says it is "gravely concerned" with a decision by Turkish prosecutors to file indictments against 16 civil society leaders, including a prominent philanthropist and a journalist.

The U.S. State Department said on February 23 that Turkey should “respect” the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said the ability of people to exercise those rights is “fundamental to any healthy democracy.”

Those indicted this week include Osman Kavala, a prominent philanthropist who had been in pretrial detention without charges for 477 days.

Charges also have been issued against Can Dundar, the former editor in chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, who fled to Germany in 2016.

They are accused of financing and coordinating the 2013 Gezi Park antigovernment protests near Taksim Square in Istanbul, which called for the resignation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

If convicted, they could face life in prison.

However, the Turkish courts have not yet accepted the charges.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa

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