Bosnian protesters accuse police of brutality

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Hundreds of people marched in Sarajevo Sunday to accuse police of mistreating recently arrested protesters and demand their release.

For the fourth day in a row, the demonstrators also called on the government to resign because of the nation’s almost 40 percent unemployment rate and alleged widespread corruption.

The head of the local police station, Mirsad Sukic, told the crowd in front of his building that none of the 44 people who were taken in custody had been mistreated or were minors. He said all but 10 have been freed.

But 17-year-old Harun Cehajic, who claimed he is one of the freed protesters, said he and others were beaten in the basement of the police station and not allowed to sleep for 26 hours.

“They destroyed us,” he said of the police.

Sunday’s protesters also yelled “Let the kids go, bandits!” at riot police in full gear who stood nearby. The crowd then marched to a prosecution office in downtown Sarajevo where protesters still in custody are believed to have been transferred.

More than 300 people were injured in the past four days during the worst social unrest Bosnia has seen since its devastating war. On Friday protesters set fire to the presidency and 17 other government buildings in several cities.

The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo issued a statement saying politicians should listen to the protesters and authorities should end the violence.

“The use of violence distracts attention from the fundamental message we see the vast majority of protesters trying to make — that reform is necessary now,” the statement said.

The prime minister of neighboring Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, met with Bosnia’s Prime Minister Vjekoslav Bevanda in the city of Mostar. Milanovic urged the European Union to help Bosnia with its problems and speed up its efforts to become a member of the bloc.

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