'If this was Croatia ...'

November 24, 2006

Drasko Boljevic was abducted and assaulted in Melbourne on November 19. Chief commissioner Christine Nixon confirmed on November 20 that a man had been mistakenly arrested, saying that he was released "because he wasn't the person we thought he was". Below, Eleonor Palacio, the partner of the man that was mistakenly arrested, describes what happened. It has been abridged from Melbourne Indymedia.

Between 12-12.15pm, November 19, Drasko Boljevic was paying for a drink at the Foodworks Minimart in front of RMIT, while his friend Oakis was inside the store. Drasko was abducted by three bouncer-looking men, dressed in casual clothes, and violently taken into an unidentifiable white van where another five helped hold Drasko down and hand cuffed him. Oakis heard screams and went outside to see Drasko being carried into the van. He asked if the abductors were police, and they replied, "Get the fuck out of here".

The men did not identify themselves, nor did they inform Drasko why he was being abducted. He was told to "shut the fuck up", or they would "bash him up and smash his face". They pushed his head against the floor of the van and sat on it while they drove around the city for about 10 minutes. They pulled his pants down, searched him and cut his backpack off his back. "I thought I was going to die, I could hardly breath", Drasko told me later.

They stopped in an ally behind Flinders Street Station and made him lie on the floor, with his pants still down. Some detectives in casual clothes arrived and identified themselves. It was not until then, about 25 minutes after his abduction, that Drasko was informed he had been arrested. No reasons were given. They took photos of his face, front and profile with a mobile. They then took him in an unidentified car to the St Kilda Road police station.

There they asked him if he would behave violently or cooperate, and took the handcuffs off. He started being interrogated and was told he was arrested for assaulting a policewoman at the G20 protest on November 18.

But Drasko was not in Melbourne on November 18: he was on his way to Malmsbury where he played the part of an emu in a cabaret at the Town Hall. Police said later that he was arrested "on the basis of his physical similarity with a suspect".

At about 2pm it became apparent that they got the wrong person, and the interrogating constable told him he was about to be released, adding: "If this was Croatia he wouldn't be so lucky". He was released at 2.35pm.

After getting home and in a state of shock, Drasko realised he had a bruise on the right eyebrow and discomfort on his neck — consequences of the violent way he was dealt with.

Drasko informed the Ethical Performance and Standards Office, who told him that "he should understand that in these circumstances they [the abductors] can't take any risks", and that "they need to apply considerable force when dealing with violent suspects".

State terrorism exists in Australia. We can say that this was a "bad mistake", but this task force operation replicates the torture tactics used in the 1970s in Argentina or in war time in Croatia.

We should have the right to peacefully protest. We shouldn't be terrorised by a policy of "tough hunt". Protesters or not, we are all people.

[Visit <http://www.melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2006/11/131901.php> for the full version.]

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