The incident occurred on 2 August when the man physically attacked the passengers in a car with Zagreb licence plates, saying he would “slaughter all Ustasha” and swearing at them, said Darko Baštovanović, an official of the HNV, the Croatian minority’s umbrella organisation in Serbia.
Asked by the passengers’ cousin, Z. B., why he was doing that, the man grabbed him by the throat and threw him to the ground, lightly injuring him. Z. B. then called the police, which arrived on the scene but did not give him a report on the attack, Baštovanović said.
Subotica police, however, said in a statement the claims that Z. B. was injured were incorrect and that the Croatians did not report being physically attacked, the suboica.com website said.
Police said Z. B. told them “that a man insulted and grabbed him by the throat over a parking disagreement, but did not mention that his cousins from Croatia had been injured or physically assaulted.”
Officers spoke to six of Z. B.’s family members who “did not complain about being physically attacked by that man.”
Police said they identified the perpetrator, a 63-year-old man of Subotica, in half an hour, interviewing him and sending the case to the prosecutors.
According to suboica.com, the police called “on all local subjects” to contact them “for correct and verified information, instead of spreading incorrect and unverified information in public, because in that way they are harming the good inter-ethnic relations that are traditionally nurtured in Subotica.”
The HNV said it stuck by its claims despite the police statement, condemning “the brutal attack on ethnic grounds” and saying “it is yet another in a series of attacks against the Croatian community in Serbia, which we believe have also been caused by the continuous negative coverage on Croats in Serbian media.”
The HNV said the latest case showed in what conditions the Croatian community lived and to what it was exposed, adding that it was especially worried that the attack occurred in Subotica, a multiethnic city and the cultural centre of the Croatian people and Croatian institutions in Serbia.
Baštovanović said Serbian authorities were obliged to respond appropriately because this time Croatian citizens were attacked also, adding that taking appropriate action would prevent inter-ethnic incidents and the further deterioration of Croatian-Serbian relations.
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