Thursday, 16 June 2022

Journalist Mate Prlić Released from Remetinec Prison One Month Later: "Right Place at Right Time"

June 16, 2022 - Croatian football fans have finally been released almost a month after they clashed with police at the Desinec rest area along the Zagreb-Split motorway. Forty-two people were in investigative custody, including Dalmatinski Portal journalist and co-founder Mate Prlić.

Mate Prlić shared his thoughts today on Dalmatinski Portal:

"'I was in the wrong place at the wrong time', is a sentence I've heard a hundred times, and I'll hear it for sure so many more, from people who are sympathetic to me and who are sorry that I was in prison for almost a month. 

Although I would like to continue living as if this month has not happened, after my experience at Remetinec, I have to write this text. First of all, to thank everyone who helped me and the families of others detained after the match against Dinamo and the riots at the Desinac rest stop. And to say that it is absolutely incorrect that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was exactly in the right place at the right time. I am convinced that nowhere else in this world would I be more useful than I was just in prison. And here's why.

Fans do stupid things, the media cover it up, politicians are appalled to make statements that parents with children should be allowed to come to stadiums in peace, and the court imposes heavy fines. The journalists are to blame for everything regarding the fans; they are equated with worms. You know? You don't know; it's boring already.

Even now, the journalist who was supposed to receive a letter of thanks from the Rotary Club Split for following their actions on Dalmatinski Portal but chose to see Hajduk off in the last round found himself in a room of about 20 square meters with a dozen detained fans, several Zagreb residents imprisoned for domestic violence, two Afghans and five or six Cubans (I do not know how they found themselves in Bosnia, from where they wanted to go illegally through Croatia to somewhere else).

Because of work, I followed all the reports from Ukraine, and the scene before my eyes in that room resembled those from the battlefield. Fans came with broken arms, split open heads, and bloody legs. As I slept through most of the riots in Desinac, at that station, I heard that police officers were shooting at fans with real bullets, which was amazing to me. I thought they were rubber, but when they connected us with other detained fans, it was only then that I got the whole picture, the one that could not reach the general public at that time. Fans avoid communication with the media, most of the information comes from the police, and journalists, like me, pass it on as it’s their job. If they had heard the testimonies of the fans on the first day, I believe this incident would have been viewed from a different angle because police terror took place in Desinac, which was probably acceptable in some past times. Fans did some nonsense (blocking the highway, attacking a small police force) for which certain penalties are prohibited by law, and there is no point in justifying or relativizing this act. Still, a normal state should be alarmed by what happened a few minutes later when police reinforcements arrived and quickly ‘established order.’

Revenge began. There was a brutal beating whenever it was reached; shots were fired without any sense, bullets bounced off the asphalt and wounded a couple of fans. We have never been closer to a fan being killed by a police bullet. They would drive the Torcida fans into buses and vans with batons and throw tear gas into their vehicles. When they opened the door, a beating followed. This was all at a time when there was no threat to police officers. Pure street revenge, so brutal that, according to the story of the fans, a Split policeman with a camera was told by his Zagreb colleagues to stop filming their intervention. Allegedly, there was a conflict with the 'blues' from Split, who disagreed with such bloodthirstiness. There were exceptions, like one Zagreb police officer stopped the repeated beating of a bound fan and later even visited him at the hospital to check if the injuries were fatal.

Fans picked up by the ambulance also ended up in Remetinec, as did the guys who were told to go to the station as witnesses to the shooting. The number of injured police officers increased during that disputed evening, reaching as many as 20. This was not the result of a Torcida attack (except for a few), but to report and probably justify firing dozens of bullets. At the first hearing, the suspects' lawyers stated that the injuries of the police officers were not described. They could inform the media from the police, and if 100 officials were injured, everyone would announce it, including my Dalmatinski Portal. 

At one of the hearings, a suspected fan cracked after hearing a police testimony that they had come to help a wounded fan and told the judge: 'While we were lying on the ground, a police officer said he vowed to kill one donkey.' The other, walking past a few of us tied up, replied: 'Choose which one you want.' By the way, the young men helping that shot fan were put in the vehicle with batons; that is, it happened totally the opposite of any assistance from the police.

Because of all this, it is good that I ended up in prison because I would hardly believe that I heard all these things in the city. It's good that I ended up in prison because I've seen a few barely grown-up kids, for whom this was their first or one of their first away visits, falling apart mentally, and I believe, at the age of 43, I helped them endure the worst days of their lives.

'When you put your hand on my shoulder, it's immediately easier for me,' I heard from a guy with three small children, with whom, as in Robert Benigni's film 'La vita e Bella,' I devised a business plan for the business we will open immediately upon release. He has 'know-how,' another will find us an attractive business space, and I will advertise a joint venture with Dalmatinski Portal.

There will be a lot of money, we laughed in the basement room with the toilet a meter and a half away from the table where the swill is eaten, and pigeons with their feces decorate the view from the barred window. I composed quizzes for the team in the cell, devised new games, and even earned the promise that I would never be a worm for them again.

I was in the right place at the right time, and I hope that after the court part of this story is over, I will be able to enjoy the new song of the Split group Dioniz 'I wouldn't change anything.'

In the coming days, months, and years, I will thank you individually, face to face, to everyone who helped my family this month; the support meant a lot to us all. But, in the end, I must publicly thank the judicial police officers in Remetinec, who did not aggravate the already difficult situation. They treated us like people, which was by far the most important thing to us at the time."

For more on the news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Split Journalist Mate Prlic Supported by Colleagues Following Police Incident

May the 26th, 2022 - Mate Prlic, journalist and co-owner of Dalmatinski portal, was arrested and is in pre-trial detention together with others from the motorway clash with police in Zagreb, in an incident which occurred recently following a Hajduk-Dinamo match, about which you can read more here. Prlic has been arrested despite having not participated in the clash with police in any way, writes

As Slobodna Dalmacija/PSD writes, Mate Prlic is a family man in his forties and is an excellent professional, and judging by the statements of his colleagues, friends, but also people who were in the column of fans who returned to Split from Zagreb after the game, he was simply just very unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

''Mate was in the car with three other friends. The boys said that they were driving at the back of a column of traffic which was several hundred metres long. Mate was asleep when they came to a standstill. They stayed there for a while, when they realised that something was going on ahead, a terrible noise could be heard and Mate, who had just woken up, got out of the car to see what was going on.

He wasn't on any sort of assignment, but he's a journalist, so of course he was interested in what was happening. His phone remained in the car, in the seat. Somehow, just at that moment in time, the police came with their tear gas and batons and began beating everyone there. The guys who were with Mate left the car and fled over the wire from the motorway, he didn't run away, he obviously thought he wasn't guilty of anything, and he ended up on the floor and put in handcuffs,'' a friend of one of the co-drivers told, with whom Mate Prlic had tried to return home to Split from Zagreb.

Allegedly, before the arrival of the police, those who actually had caused the conflict on the motorway had already fled, and many were arrested who thought they had no reason to flee because they hadn't done anything.

Hrvoje Zovko, the president of HND (Croatian Journalists' Association), commented on the situation:

''According to the information we've got, Mate Prlic didn't take part in any incident or do anything that should have led to his arrest and detention. We respect the work of the institutions and we want this whole story to be fully explored, to shed light on all the circumstances of the whole event, but also the treatment of him and other people. HND condemns any kind of violence, we aren't offering justification for any attack, but we do ask that all of the circumstances surrounding this situation be properly determined, including the treatment of our colleague who apparently did nothing wrong except find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time,'' said Zovko.

Another Dalmatian portal, DalmacijaDanas, has published that a large number of journalists have signed an appeal over the whole Mate Prlic situation. The appeal, at the time of writing signed by 255 journalists, says the following:

"We, journalists from Split, as well as colleagues from all parts of Croatia, were shocked to learn that after Saturday's riot on the motorway, our dear colleague Mate Prlic was detained. Everyone who knows him, from colleagues to business partners, is fully convinced that he has absolutely nothing to do with provoking fan riots, nor did he participate in them, and we've seen no evidence to the contrary.

We call on all of the relevant institutions to submit and publish, as soon as possible, all available recordings and other evidence on the basis of which he was detained and for which he was sentenced to pre-trial detention.

The fact that Mate Prlic, a respected intellectual who is liked and appreciated by practically the whole of Split, is among those detained and imprisoned, justifiably raises suspicions as to whether the actions taken by the police and the judicial authorities were regular. If indeed pre-trial detention is assigned to a person who did nothing other than find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, then a legitimate question arises as to how many more such cases are among those who were also arrested.

Below are the signatures of all of the journalists, editors, columnists, cameramen, photojournalists, graphic artists, filmmakers and many other media employees who want to express their support for their colleague, with the desire to prove his innocence as soon as possible,'' reads the appeal signed by 255 journalists whose names you can read by clicking here.