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Out Of Tune? Mostar Hosts Contentious Croatian Singer Despite Outrage

Marko Perkovic Thompson, a controversial Croatian nationalist singer, is banned from performing in a number of countries.
Marko Perkovic Thompson, a controversial Croatian nationalist singer, is banned from performing in a number of countries.

They're the hottest tickets in town. But not necessarily in a good way.

The Bosnian city of Mostar is hosting a benefit concert on June 8, and not everyone is rushing to attend.

The headliner is Marko Perkovic Thompson, a controversial Croatian nationalist singer accused of glorifying fascism who has been banned from performing in several European cities.

The 50-year-old Perkovic was invited by the Croatian segment of Bosnia-Herzegovina's governing structure to perform at the event, which honors Croatian detainees at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

His planned appearance in Mostar has sparked calls for a cancellation amid fears that it will raise tensions in the ethnically divided city, where Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks fought each other during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.

Perkovic's songs are regarded as offensive by many Serbs and Muslims. He has been accused of glorifying the Nazi-backed fascist state in Croatia during World War II and calling for the killing of Serbs.

The singer rejects such criticism and says his songs are dedicated to homeland, people, and a love of god.

Perkovic's nickname, Thompson, derives from his days as a soldier during Croatia's war for independence from the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when he was said to have carried a Thompson submachine gun.

Mayor Ljubo Beslic, a member of the largely Croat ruling HDZ party, insists there are no legal grounds for authorities to ban Perkovic from performing in Mostar.

City authorities also banned planned protest rallies against the concert on June 8.

Several Bosniak political parties and the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina have urged the authorities to cancel the event.

The Social Democrats warn that the concert could spark tensions and upset reconciliation between ethnic groups and jeopardize the security of citizens.

On June 7, major world powers overseeing the ongoing status of the Dayton peace accords urged Bosnian Croat leaders to cancel the concert, saying, "No action should be undertaken by anyone in Mostar or anywhere else that, as a consequence, deepens divisions or raises tensions." The countries overseeing the accord include the United States, Russia, and Britain.

Croatian politicians and groups argue that the concert should go ahead, saying it is a music event not a political gathering.

Perkovic's shows are banned in several countries, including the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Slovenia, with police citing security risks.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Balkan Service correspondent Mirsad Behram

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