Minister apologises to Roma gypsy family for police brutality

Belgrade (ANTARA News/AKI) - Serbian police minister Ivica Dacic Tuesday issued an apology to a Roma family for police brutality in a case that shocked the public and sparked protests by human rights organisations.

Dacic received a Roma youth, Danijel Stojanovic and his father Gani, after it was discovered that Danijel was brutally beaten by police in the eastern city of Vrsac four years ago.

The scandal wound up on the popular Youtube video-sharing website and caught public attention after one of three policemen who took part in the beating sold his mobile telephone on which he filmed the beating in Vrsac police station.

Apologizing to Danijel, now 22, Dacic said two police officers had been arrested over the beating and legal proceedings were under way for a third who had in the meantime retired, Dacic said.

Police claimed Stojanovic and his father were involved in criminal activities, but Dacic said these allegations could not justify the policemen's brutal behaviour.

"It is in the public interest that citizens think well of police, not badly," Dacic said. "I hope this event will be a turning point for police and for the Stojanovic family and that all will draw a lesson from it," he added.

Police brutality was widespread in Serbia due a lack of reform including internal controls, according to Ivan Kuzmanovic, an official from Serbia?s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights group.

His organization had interviewed about 300 prisoners in Serbian jails and more than 200 of them complained that they had been subject to "some sort of torture" by police, Kuzmanovic told Belgrade television B92.