Serbian MP convicted for saying Pride would promote gay “illness”

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A court in Belgrade condemned Dragan Markovic, a controversial Serbian member of parliament, for discriminatory remarks about gays before the cancelled Belgrade Pride 2011, Serbia’s Gay-Straight Alliance said today.

Aleksandar Olenik, a lawyer representing the GSA, told Agence France Presse: “The court decided that Dragan Markovic committed a serious act of discrimination and ordered him not to repeat it again.”

The court did not impose any sentence or fine on Markovic but the MP was ordered to pay costs.

The judgement said: “An aggravated form of discrimination has been determined, as well as expression and incitement of intolerance, hatred and intolerance based on sexual orientation, which represents an aggravated form of discrimination especially if it is done through media.”

In August, Markovic said he was against the 2011 Pride event “where they want to show something that is an illness as something normal”.

The Pride parade scheduled to be held in Belgrade on 2 October was cancelled by the police due to security concerns.

A number of ultranationalist groups had announced they planned to disrupt the march.

The GSA, one of several gay rights groups active in Serbia, said in a statement it was “satisfied with the verdict and fast reaction by the justice system.”

“This case has a strategic importance because this is the first time such a verdict is issued against a politician,” the group said.

It added that “such remarks should be sanctioned by the judiciary because politicians have the highest responsibility for promoting tolerance, a democratic society, non-violence and respect for human rights.”

Belgrade’s first parade in 2001 saw considerable protests. A second attempt in 2009 was cancelled by organisers when police barred them from from the city centre due to security worries.

In 2010, Belgrade went ahead with its Pride event but violent riots followed in which 150 people were injured.

The country’s president, Boris Tadic condemned that attacks saying: “Serbia will guarantee human rights for all its citizens, regardless of the differences among them, and no attempts to revoke these freedoms with violence will be allowed.”

Police arrested six suspected anti-gay extremists in connection with plans to disrupt the cancelled Pride march.