BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbian authorities banned a gay pride march in Belgrade for a third consecutive year because of threats made by right-wing groups, officials said Friday.
Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said top security and state officials decided to ban Saturday's event because they feared a repeat of violence in 2010, when extremists attacked a gay pride march in the Serbian capital. That triggered daylong clashes with the police which injured more than 100 people.
Gay pride marches in 2011 and 2012 were also banned. Serbia, which is seeking European Union membership, has pledged to respect human rights, and whether or not they allowed the march this year was regarded as a test of that vow.
In addition to banning the gay pride march, Dacic said the government was banning a gathering of right-wing groups that planned to attack the event. Authorities also rescheduled several soccer matches in Belgrade from Saturday to Sunday, because they are attended by hooligans aligned with extremists.
"We decided to ban the event because of serious security concerns," Dacic told state TV. "This is not a capitulation against the hooligans, but an attempt to prevent chaos on the streets of Belgrade."
Several right-wing groups, allied with similar anti-gay groups in Russia, have issued open threats against the gay marchers.
Patriarch Irinej, the head of Serbia's Christian Orthodox church, has spoken out against the gay pride march. He said such a "parade of shame" would cast a "moral shadow" on the conservative Balkan country.