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Bosnian Protesters Demand Justice, End To Corruption

Davor Dragicevic, father of late David Dragicevic, 21, leads a protest in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka.
Davor Dragicevic, father of late David Dragicevic, 21, leads a protest in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka.

Thousands of Bosnians have taken to the streets to demand that authorities determine the truth behind the deaths of two young men -- a Muslim and a Serb -- in a protest that spanned Bosnia's entrenched ethnic divisions.

The protesters who marched in Sarajevo on May 15 also echoed calls by demonstrators in the former Soviet bloc for an end to the government corruption and negligence that they contend was behind the young men's deaths.

Holding banners reading "Who is protecting the killers?" and "We want the truth," the protesters accused authorities of covering up the killings of David Dragicevic and Dzenan Memic.

Memic, 22, of Sarajevo, died in February 2016 from what prosecutors initially described as intentional homicide, but later said was the result of a vehicle accident.

Two men have been charged with driving the van that hit Memic. His father claims his son was slain deliberately and authorities protected the real killers.

Dragicevic, 21, from Banja Luka in Bosnia's Serbian entity, was found dead in March. Police said he drowned, but Dragicevic's father insists his son was beaten and then killed.

The father has led weeks of protests in Banja Luka that have challenged the government in the Serb-dominated part of the country.

Authorities in Sarajevo and in Banja Luka have denied the allegations leveled by the grieving men and the crowds that have come out to support them.

Bosnia-Herzegovina was divided into two separately governed regions -- Serbian and Muslim-Croat -- under a peace agreement that ended the 1992-95 war between the country's Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks, and Croats. Its central government is ruled jointly.

Critics say the system has entrenched in power ethnic-based political parties, which have grown corrupt. Moreover, tensions among the former war foes persist more than two decades after the conflict that killed 100,000 people.

The protest in Sarajevo on May 15 appeared to break the pattern of tensions by bringing together people from Sarajevo and protesters from Banja Luka to call for investigations and justice in the men's deaths.

The men's fathers said they believe both cases were covered up by police acting in cahoots with the killers, providing what they say is evidence of the corruption that has plagued Bosnia's regions since the 1990s war.

Dragicevic's father, Davor Dragicevic, told the crowd he would continue organizing demonstrations until his son's killers are punished. Dragicevic has led daily protests in Banja Luka for more than 50 days.

"My child was killed by a system created after the war. I will never forgive them for David, Dzenan, and all the other children," Dragicevic said. "I demand the names of accomplices, killers, and all those who hid evidence."

Memic's father, Muriz Memic, expressed similar resolve, saying, "I know what happened and they can't convince me to the contrary." The police "are either incompetent or corrupt. There is no other explanation," he said.

Many of the protesters held placards reading "Justice for Dave" and "Justice for Dzenan."

The demonstrators also voiced discontent with low living standards, widespread corruption, and the country's ethnic divisions.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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