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March 18, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 430
The Escape of Bogoljub Arsenijevic Maki

Modern Serbian Outlaw

by Zoran B. Nikolic

On both sides of the lightning rod's track which goes along the recently painted facade of Belgrade's Maxillo-Facial Clinic, some light traces are clearly visible. It seems that someone rested on it with his knees, on the way from the second floor down to the ground floor. The lightning rod's track passes by the window of room No.7, which is on that side of the building on the level of the second floor, seven or eight metres upwards the ground level. And it was from room No.7 that, during the night between March 7th and 8th Bogoljub Arsenijevic Maki, leader of the Civic Resistance of Valjevo, disappeared, while he was waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court and
the verdict by which he was sentenced to a three-year prison term.

KNOCK OFF!: On that Tuesday afternoon, the doctors removed little metal tiles from Maki's broken lower jaw, which stood there for six months. Neither the court, nor the MUP (the Ministry of Internal Affairs) informed the public about it, but on Wednesday, the judge Mitar Djenisic said to Arsenijevic's brother that Maki had escaped. On Thursday, the MUP of Valjevo informed Arsenijevic's wife Snezana of the same thing. The Arsenijevic's family admit that they have not heard from Maki, and that they hope that he is all right, although the very bitter experience of his arrest arouses doubt about everything. They are also doubted by the fact that Arsenijevic (who has, due to the insufficient medical care, not yet recovered from the injuries suffered in August last year) has just been operated and that he complained against severe pains. 'I don't believe that he managed to run away in such a condition', says Snezana Arsenijevic for VREME.

Bogoljub Arsenijevic, who was accused of having incited the citizens of Valjevo to attack the municipal building, was brought from Valjevo to Belgrade on Monday. His lower jaw, which was broken by four police officers in plain clothes (who also managed to sprain his arm, break his rib, squeeze his kidney...), was operated only eight days after his arrest. 'They put some metal tiles in my jaw, so that I could speak', Maki himself described. They should have been removed six months later, but that was not done on time. 'They even wondered why he had to go to Belgrade and they asked for a doctor's order', says Arsenijevic's wife. The operation was finally performed on Tuesday. 'Everything went well. There were no complications after the procedure', says to VREME Vitomir Konstantinovic, a docent at the Maxillo-Facial Clinic at the Faculty of Dental Medicine, who performed the procedure on Maki's jaw. When he was asked to describe the patient's condition at the reception to the Clinic, docent Konstantinovic just said: 'Fit as a fiddle.'
That afternoon, at the recommendation of the doctor, the family tried to visit Bogoljub Arsenijevic. When they entered the room, they came across a guard of the Central Prison, who occupied the bed next to Maki's. 'He constantly shouted 'Knock off!'. He did not let us leave him some food or fruit, not even a cup of tea', said Snezana Arsenijevic. While her brother-in-law was trying to negotiate with the guard, who demanded to see the court authorisation for a visit, she managed to exchange a few sentences with her husband. 'He was turned to the wall having a nap, he was conscious, but somehow dreamy and swollen in the face. I only asked him if he had any pains. He answered: 'Don't ask! Ten times worse than the first time'', said Mrs. Arsenijevic. In the end they had to leave the room. They left the tea with the nurse. 'Before we never needed a court permission to visit him in the hospital', added Snezana Arsenijevic.

On the way out, the family found out from a guard and one of the patients that Maki would be released from hospital on Wednesday. 'We were told that after such a procedure, it is required that the patient rests for at least seven days', she complained. 'When prisoners are concerned, it is not on us to decide how long they should stay', said doctor Konstantinovic. Some of them are transported on the very day of the operation, while others remain here for seven or eight days.'

CHAINS: According to some unofficial version of events, published by 'Glas Javnosti' daily, on Wednesday, at 6 a.m., it was noticed that Bogoljub Arsenijevic Maki disappeared. Allegedly, he came down from the second floor along the lightning rod or a gutter (which is one metre away from the window), while the guard was asleep in front of the door of the room. 'I never came across a guard in front of the door whenever I visited Bogoljub before, he was always inside, on the bed next to Bogoljub's', claims Snezana Arsenijevic.
'In this hospital, the guards have those chains that remind me so much of the Middle Ages. On the first day, when he attempted to put it around my ankle, I asked him: 'What's that for, man? You really don't have to do that.' But, he said: 'I must obey the order, it's a customary thing'. And I must say that the majority of them did not employ the chains, apart from one who immediately tightened it as much as he could.' This is how Maki described his first arrival from prison to hospital, at the end of August last year. His story of his own arrest was then recorded on a hidden dictaphone, during a visit in the hospital, in order to publish Maki's words in VREME. Perhaps, that is one of the reasons for speeding up Maki's transportation to prison in Valjevo.

We do not know for sure whether Arsenijevic was attached to his bed on that crucial night. If he was not attached, if the guard in a bed next to him was in  deep sleep, and if he really was 'fit as a fiddle', then he might have been able to perform the described escape. 'I wish that my brother escaped ', said Bogoljub's brother Branko. 'Even if he did that, it was due to the utmost humiliation he was exposed to.' It is still not known what happened with his personal belongings, and something can be judged by what has left of them. Maki had a notebook in prison and, his family claim, he would never leave it behind, 'under no circumstances'.

SINS: In his conflicts with the government, Maki never went beyond a conflict with the police. He wanted to 'conquer' the municipal building, the police intercepted him, when he went to a meeting with the Patriarch, the police intercepted him. Afterwards, a uniformed and armed state official tied him to the bed. From what comes out of Maki's statements, it is clear that he always tried to talk with those policemen with whom he happened to have a contact. It is likely that he too was bothered by the question why would someone behave so cruelly towards people he does not know and who have done nothing wrong to him. 'They all say: 'We just have to do our job'', said Arsenijevic. One of those who participated in his 'arrest' claimed that he was told to go and arrest a police-murderer and a prison escapee, heavily armed. Almost all of them, according to Arsenijevic's story, were surprised by the reason of his actual arrest. If that was the only problem, and if Serbian policemen do not know what is going on around them - they just have to obey the orders, then the solution is simple: they just have to look around themselves and stick to the laws. Then, Bogoljub Arsenijevic, if they ever find him again, will not end up like during his first arrest. If that what they told Maki was just an excuse, let them save their words, their words will not do any good to anyone. Not even to them.
Arsenijevic's family is afraid that it is about the abduction, that possibility cannot be rejected nowadays. But, having in mind all the circumstances and Maki's courageousness, the escape seems to be a more likely option. A search for him will not be an easy task; but to be honest, he expiated his sins of resorting to violence much more than justice would agree to. We do not even know the names of those who disturbed the health of this father of five children.

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