Montenegro arrests 8 Serbian Orthodox priests after violating coronavirus restrictions



 Montenegrin police have used tear gas against citizens in Niksic and Plevle, Montenegro, who opposed the arrest of several priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Montenegrin police said in a Twitter post that four police officers were injured in the clashes.

"Tonight, the citizens gathered in Plevle and threw stones, glass bottles and pyrotechnic objects towards the police. As a result, 4 officers were injured. A swift police action ensured the imposition of the order. The arrest of those responsible for this incident is taking place ", it is said in the police notification.

Eight Montenegrin priests could face up to 12 years in prison for violating public health orders after conducting an illegal liturgy on the streets of the country's second-largest city, Niksic.

Montenegro arrests 8 Serbian Orthodox priests after violating coronavirus restrictions
 Serbian Police in Montenegrin city of Niksic facing the protesters, May 13, 2020
Thousands of believers of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro ignored the government's ban on public rallies to prevent the spread of coronavirus and took part in a religious liturgy to mark St. Basil's Day in Ostrog.

Prosecutors said on May 13 that the eight priests could face jail on charges of violating pandemic restrictions.

"They [the priests] are accused of violating health rules in preventing a dangerous contagious disease," prosecutor Stevo Sekaric said in a statement.

Belgrade has strongly criticized the arrest of eight priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.

Videos and photos from the ceremony showed how most of the participants did not wear masks on their faces or didn't kept the right distance from each other.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej said in a joint statement that they "expressed hope that the arrests would not cause any  "unwanted riots or clashes ".

Vucic called for a peaceful solution to the crisis and a speedy release of priests.

Irinej said the arrests were "evidence that the Montenegrin state is carrying out a purge of the Serbian Orthodox Church."

Constant tensions Serbia - Montenegro

The arrests follow ongoing tensions between pro-Western Montenegrin authorities and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Montenegro's pro-Western authorities see the Serbian Orthodox Church as a tool for Serbia to intervene in the country's internal affairs, which has Moscow's support.

Earlier this year, the Serbian Orthodox Church staged several weeks of protests in Montenegro against a law on religious freedom.

The Serbian Orthodox Church - which has long dominated religious life in Montenegro - claims the law will take away its property, including monasteries and churches.

The law, which came into force in January, states that religious communities must prove ownership of the property before 1918.

Montenegro, a country of 620,000 people, seceded from Serbia through a referendum in 2006, taking a pro-Western course and joining NATO in 2017.

The country has also negotiated membership in the European Union.

Serbian nationalists in both countries have never fully recognized Serbia's separation from Montenegro, which they claim is historically Serbian territory.
Montenegro arrests 8 Serbian Orthodox priests after violating coronavirus restrictions Montenegro arrests 8 Serbian Orthodox priests after violating coronavirus restrictions Wednesday, May 13, 2020 Rating: 5
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