December 3, 2008 / 12:25 PM / 11 years ago

Croat police apologize for Facebook arrest

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia’s police officials apologized on Wednesday for detaining a local web activist who had put up posters calling for an anti-government rally, but denied any political motivation for their act.

Croatian Prime Minister Sanader talks to party candidates at their headquarters in Zagreb, November 26, 2007 REUTERS/Nikola Solic

The man was part of a group on Facebook, the online social networking site, which called an anti-government rally in several towns, including the capital Zagreb, for December 5. The group has more than 80,000 members.

“Posting posters does not constitute a disturbance of public order,” national police chief Vladimir Faber told a news conference.

He said some police officers would face disciplinary action for arresting the young man in Zagreb.

His comments came only hours after Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, faced with mounting criticism from opposition and media, asked the Interior Ministry to investigate possible abuse of police authority.

“No one in Croatia can be detained or arrested because of a different opinion or because of a protest against my or any other political view. My main task as a prime minister is to defend that right,” Sanader said in a statement.

In the last few days police have held and questioned several Internet activists who were criticizing or ridiculing the government.

Last Friday police questioned a member of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, after he launched a group called “I bet I can find 5,000 Facebookers who dislike Sanader.”

Police said they had acted because he posted a photo montage portrait of Sanader in a Nazi uniform and that no abuse of police authority had taken place.

An editorial in a local daily this week, entitled “Stop Facebook,” said the authorities were acting in a manner similar to Yugoslav communists, who distrusted the media and wanted to control it.

Sanader, whose government hopes to conclude European Union membership talks by the end of next year, said he wanted a report from Interior Minister Tomislav Karamarko on those cases.

“I asked for a report on police actions and I want appropriate sanctions if police did not respect regulations,” his statement said.

Reporting by Igor Ilic, Editing by Alison Williams

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