Judge halts procedure against student protester

Maribor – A Maribor judge has announced halting misdemeanour proceedings against a student for taking part in a peaceful protest in Maribor in February calling for schools reopening. The student’s defence counsel Dino Bauk expects the same decision to be taken in the case of two other students facing same charges.

“Reason has obviously prevailed. The procedure has been halted and the judge has apologised on behalf of the judiciary,” the student Matic said, visibly relieved, on leaving the Marbor Local Court after appearing before a magistrate for taking part in the protest in contravention of the government ban.

“Thank God, it ended this way without further complications. After all, it was the only possible outcome, really, and I’m happy it all ended,” the underage student said.

It was his defence counsel who proposed ending the procedure. “The judge followed the defence’s motion after Matic read out an exceptional plea that he had written himself; why he was there, how overheard and forgotten they had been by the education minister and the government, how urgent it was for them to speak out, and the distress they had been through,” Bauk told reporters.

He said the purpose of misdemeanour procedures against juveniles was educational, which in this case proved unnecessary.

“The judge obviously reasoned that considering those who had been issued notices during the protest abided by all restrictions and only those who expressed their opinion were issued notices, that the freedom of speech must not be restricted, not even for the epidemic, the whole procedure has no point,” the lawyer said.

The court told the STA District Court Judge Iris Zei had not yet issued a written decree in the case but had announced that the proceedings against the student would be halted.

A crowd gathered in front of the court building in support of the students just like earlier this month as the first student appeared in front of a magistrate because she took part in the 9 February protest. However, this time around there were fewer police present.

Those gathered included fellow students and Matic’s parents. “We’re by his side because we think what he did was right. The longer this goes on, the bigger the farce will be for the state and the whole system,” the student’s father said on arriving at the court.

At the 9 February rally, six protesters were fined EUR 400 for allegedly violating the communicable diseases act, while the three underage protesters were summoned to appear before a magistrate. All three attend II. Gimnazija Maribor secondary school.

The first student appeared in front of a magistrate last week but no decision has been made in the case, while the third is yet to receive a court date.

Last week the Constitutional Court stayed the government’s ban on public assembly pending its final decision of petitions challenging the government’s ban. Protests featuring up to 100 participants are allowed again since Monday providing they are registered with the police and are held in accordance with coronavirus rules.