Stevan Dojcinovic, the editor of Serbia’s Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK), is on a flight to Belgrade after being held under surveillance for 12 hours in Abu Dhabi and then deported, KRIK said in a statement on Wednesday, prompting fierce opposition reactions.
UAE authorities stopped Dojcinovic at the Abu Dhabi airport and told him he was on a ‘blacklist,’ and could not enter the country.
Drew Sullivan, the editor of the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), broke the news on his Twitter account earlier on Wednesday.
.@OCCRPand@Krikrseditor@StevanOCCRPwas detained in Abu Dhabi where he was scheduled to speak at the#uncac, the UNs big anti corruption meetup. Not a promising start to the convention. He will be deported. The UAE has a lot of explaining to do about their commitment.— Drew Sullivan (@DrewOCCRP)December 17, 2019
Dojcinovic was supposed to address a UN convention on corruption, Sullivan wrote, adding Dojcinovic was told his name was on some vague list.
They gave him a comment about being on some vague list.— Drew Sullivan (@DrewOCCRP)December 18, 2019
“After that, they took me to the airport’s police. They took my fingerprints, photographed me and made a file. Then they left me to wait under surveillance and after five hours told me I would be deported to Serbia next morning,” Dojcinovic said.
He added the police officers who guarded him said he was on the ‘blacklist’ and had to be sent back to Serbia without a proper explanation.
“They told me that it was not UAE that put him on the list, but that it was the request by some other Government, but did not tell me a whose government that was,” Dojcinovic said.
In the meantime, Maja Videnovic, an opposition MP from the Democratic Party, asked Prime Minister Ana Brnabic if she knew which government put Dojcinovic on the blacklist.
"If you don’t know that, have you sent an urgent note to UAE demanding answers? If you haven’t, you confirmed that personal, business, criminal and political interests are more important than people’s freedom.”
Videnovic added that if the state did not protect Dojcinovic’s interest, it sided with crime and corruption.
Freedom and Justice opposition Party demanded an official excuse from UAE.
Later on Wednesday, Serbia’s Foreign Ministry says the country’s embassy in Abu Dhabi has asked for information why Dojcinovic, was held at the city’s airport and denied entry to UAE with explanation that some state put him on a blacklist, adding Serbia had never put any Serbia’s national on any restrictive lists, N1 reported.
The embassy said Dojcinovic did not ask for assistance, neither the UAE authorities informed the embassy about the event. Serbia’s ambassador learned about it during the UN-organised conference on fighting drugs and corruption. Dojcinovic was supposed to address the gathering.
Instead, after 12 hours, he was deported to Serbia.
The situation was not entirely new to Dojcinovic since the same happened to him in Russia in 2015 when he was banned from entering the country where he was supposed to give a lecture on investigative reporting to Moscow’s students, KRIK reported.
“In comparison to Russia’s authorities, people here were more polite to me. I didn’t end up in detention, and even allow me to buy food,” Dojcinovic said.
Belgrade has traditionally good relationship with Moscow, while it has intensified cooperation with UAE, mainly in the construction business.
KRIK is investigating and publishing cases of high-level corruption in Serbia.