Belgrade’s Municipality of Zemun has announced that an illegally built religious structure built by the Islamic Community has been demolished.
N1 is reporting that the demolition started early on Friday, between 03:00 and 04:00 CET, and lasted two hours.
Strong police and Gendarmerie forces blocked the settlement, with police officers deployed “in three security rings around it.”
One floor and the loft of the building have been torn down. Construction works started in 2014, and had been stopped several times, but then resumed without permit.
The municipality said on Friday that the Islamic Community as the investor raised the structure in 41 Kurirska Street ignoring the decisions made by building inspectors, and the criminal complaints filed against it.
“Works continued even after the Building Inspectorate of the City Municipality of Zemun on several occasions shut down the site and filed several criminal complaints,” a statement said.
Local residents told Tanjug on Friday morning that electricity was cut off during the demolition, and that their cell phones had no connectivity.
According to Imam Emin Zejnulahu, there was an agreement to tear down “the roof and seven rows of bricks” – because the process of legalizing the rest of the building had been launched.
However, he said, “this agreement has not been honored.”
Zejnulahu told Tanjug that Islamic Community believers would, considering that the holiday of Ramadan is beginning, pray in the street today, “as they no longer have a religious building.”
The demolition was planned for Thursday, but was postponed due to a large number of citizens who gathered to prevent it.
Representatives of “all utility services” as well as a large number of regular and traffic police gathered at the site, along with heavy equipment and a tow truck, N1 said.
Representatives of the Islamic Community spoke with those of the municipality of Zemun and the local police in order to agree on removing a large number of children, women, and youths who opposed the demolition from the building, and implement the local authorities’ decision.
However, this did not happen, “so it was decided to postpone the action and continue conversations at a higher level.”
Members of the Islamic Community earlier in the day parked a large number of cars in front of the structure, preventing the police and municipal representatives from approaching it. The police managed then to move the cars aside and allow passage.
Believers were gathering around it in recent days as well, while Mufti of Srem Zejnulahu on Wednesday called on Muslims to “respond” and “together, peacefully and in a dignified manner, use legal and legitimate means to protect the building from demolition.”
He addressed those gathered today, urging them “to remain calm,” and saying they would stay there “as long as possible awaiting an agreement with a higher level of authority.”