World News

Anger over Croatian's plan to sing in Sarajevo

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Sarajevo authorities and Jewish and anti-fascist associations have protested against a plan to commemorate the anniversary of a papal visit with a concert by a controversial nationalist folk-rocker from Croatia.

They said performers such as Marko Perkovic Thompson were not welcome in a city that suffered massive destruction and killings in Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

Sarajevo canton culture minister Emir Hadzihafizbegovic said the city supported the idea of staging a concert in mid-May, organised by the Croat Catholic Charitable Society, to mark the 1997 visit by Pope John Paul II.

“But we think that xenophobic messages that can be heard at Thompson’s concerts do not have a place in this city which experienced the consequences of nationalist intolerance,” Hadzihafizbegovic said on Thursday.

Thompson is an icon for Croat nationalists in Croatia and Bosnia. Critics have accused him of flirting with the iconography and ideology of Croatia’s World War Two Nazi-allied Ustashe regime, which killed many Serbs, Jews and Gypsies.

Hadzihafizbegovic said however authorities had no legal means to prevent the singer from performing. Jewish and anti-fascist associations and left-wing parties have said they will organise a protest concert if Thompson showed up.

Thompson, who has rejected accusations against him as fabrications and provocations, has sung many times in Bosnian Croat areas. He told Sarajevo newspapers he did not understand the fuss about the charity’s invitation to him to play in Sarajevo.

“I don’t know how I have offended them,” the singer, nicknamed after a U.S-made submachine gun, told Slobodna Bosna weekly newspaper. “I am coming to Sarajevo.”

Pop, rock and folk acts from Croatia and Serbia have often performed in Bosnia in recent years, but those with a nationalist streak have stuck to areas populated by their ethnic kin.

More than 10,000 people were killed during almost four years of the Serb siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s.