The Serbian boy, 12, getting death threats for his blog
A geeky boy with wire-rimmed spectacles, outdated haircut and slightly shiny pinstriped suit seems an unlikely target for irate Serbian nationalists.
But the blog of 12-year-old Rastko Pocesta – where he argues for greater ties between Serbia and the European Union, calls for the recognition of an independent Kosovo and condemns the Srebrenica massacre – has led to death threats against the schoolboy.
Posts such as: "I'll wait for you in front of school and kill you" have appeared on his site. His mother, Suzanna, alerted the authorities and her son has now been placed under police protection.
"I am an independent human rights activist. I am fighting for the right of different opinion to be expressed and against violence," Rastko told The Independent in an interview at his modest home in downtown Belgrade, speaking in a wise, polished and diplomatic voice far older than his years.
"I did worry a bit for my security," the sixth-grader conceded, smoothing his centre parting. "But I'm not afraid. I'll continue what I'm doing, as long as it takes. Maybe it's hard for my mum now, as she was always an apolitical person... anyway, we mostly disagree about politics."
On his blog (http://www.rastkopocesta.blogspot.com), Rastko tackles many of the Balkan nation's taboos.
"I am a Serb, but I recognise Kosovo as an independent state," begins one post. Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia, and Washington's support, led to the United States embassy in Belgrade being set alight by ultra-nationalists. The Serbian government has said it will never recognise Kosovo, but Rastko explained that he holds a different view "because that is our future, we can no longer look into the past".
His advocacy of closer ties with the EU and Nato has also raised hackles. Sitting against a backdrop of EU and US flags, with Barack Obama photos ranged on the shelves, he sets out his reasoning. "I believe they are our future," he said. "The EU means development, Nato means stability. Nato is viewed by many here only as the source of bombing (in the Kosovo war of 1999)."
He has written and published a history of past US presidents, entitled Hall of Presidents, and is currently ploughing his way through the Serbian translation of Obama's autobiography, Dreams from my Father.
Talking about infamous Serbian leaders, namely Radovan Karadzic, Rastko shrugs off the claim made by the former Bosnian Serb chief – currently standing trial at The Hague – that the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995 is a myth. "Srebrenica is the synonym for genocide," Rastko said, "it was as deliberate an act as ethnic cleansing".
These opinions together with less overtly political utterances – such as "I don't think that Serbian girls are the best looking in the world" – have sent a tidal wave of hate in his direction.
Many Serbians still believe in the war rhetoric of the 1990s, and the official propaganda of international conspiracy against their noble nation.
"I would mistreat this kid for fun," one contributor wrote in a post on the online forum of Serbia's biggest right-wing group, Obraz. "He doesn't need school, but hospital."
Ultra-nationalist groups are now trying to calm fiery rhetoric after sections of the Serbia public – including Marko Karadzic, Serbia's State Secretary for Human Rights – reacted in horror at the violent threats made against the young boy.
A spokesman for the Serbian Prosecution Office said that the process of collecting information about the authors of the threats was "ongoing". "This is the case of endangered security of a minor, and it will be solved urgently," Toma Zoric told Serbian media.
The death threats and publicity have also seen Rastko losing friends at his school. "They fear for their safety," he said, "And maybe some of them are jealous".
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