Protest figurehead faces another suit over policing costs, report says

Ljubljana – Jaša Jenull, one of the figureheads of Friday’s anti-government bicycle protests, now faces the third lawsuit in which the Interior Ministry alleges his responsibility for the costs of policing worth EUR 34,000, the newspaper Dnevnik reported on Friday. He also continues to receive fines for allegedly organising the rallies in the past.

Jenull receives several fines every week, ranging from EUR 500 to EUR 750, the paper added.

Two other lawsuits had been brought against him over the EUR 2,255 cost of policing a protest held on 2 October 2020 and the EUR 3,778 cost of policing a protest on 4 September 2020.

Dnevnik reports that the latest lawsuit filed by the police and the ministry relates to Jenull’s alleged organisation of a protest in front of the parliament building in June 2020, when citizens sat on the ground in Republic Square and read the Constitution out loud. The police claim that he caused them high costs by organising this.

The lawsuit was filed despite many warnings that it would be rejected, as freedom of speech and the right to spontaneous protest are guaranteed by the Constitution.

According to the paper, the State Attorney’s Office itself, which filed the lawsuits on behalf of the authorities, had repeatedly warned the ministry and the police that they would not succeed and that Jenull’s role as a protest organiser could not even be attested. The Janez Janša government eventually forced the State Attorney’s Office to file all three lawsuits, Dnevnik adds.

Meanwhile, Jenull told the paper he feared he would no longer be able to meet even his basic subsistence needs if he were to lose his case in court. He noted the ministry and police wanted to silence and exhaust him by filing the lawsuits.

Amnesty International Slovenija launched in March an international campaign to call on the authorities to withdraw the lawsuits.

The Friday’s anti-government bicycle protests started in April 2020 not long after the Janša government was sworn in, and ended after Janša and his party Democrats (SDS) were defeated in the 24 April general election.

The likeliest new prime minister, Robert Golob, has said that the new government would demand the withdrawal of claims for protesters to pay the alleged costs of policing at unregistered rallies.