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Activists and members of Serbia's LGBTQ+ community protest reported police harassment

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Rights activists and members of LGBTQ+ community in Serbia on Wednesday held a protest following a reported case of police harassment of a young gay man and a bisexual woman.

The protest in Serbia's capital Belgrade was called after police rejected a complaint against the officers accused of assaulting the two during a raid of their apartment in mid-February, organizers said.

Police have said they found drugs in the flat during the raid and will look into the allegations against their officers. The case was also referred to the prosecutor's office for an investigation.

“We are demanding urgent criminal prosecution of the police officers who took part in the abuse and torture of the two young LGBTQ+ persons,” said Da se zna, or To be known, rights group that was behind the protest.

The group has said that after breaking into the apartment during the drug raid policemen saw LGBTQ+ symbols there which prompted the harassment, including beating, insults and forced simulation of sexual acts.

“We don’t want to suffer violence,” one of the reported victims told the dozens of people who came to offer their support. The young man refused to give his name to avoid public attention and possible further harassment.

“Please, don’t tolerate violence! I came here in my name, my flatmate’s name and in the name of all people who suffer violence and remain silent,” he added. "I don’t want to be silent.”

The young man's mother, Sanja Malinovic, described what happened to her son as “sadism.” He was “violated and brutally attacked,” she said.

Harassment and violence against LGBTQ+ people in Serbia remain common despite the Balkan nation’s bid to join the European Union and despite having an openly gay female prime minister for years. Rights groups have campaigned in vain for a law on same-sex partnerships while pride marches routinely are banned or held under heavy police protection.