Vecernje Novosti daily, Belgrade
April 5, 2004
They were beaten bestially
By D. Todorovic
There was a huge crowd of people in the Church of the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God and in the churchyard. Six o'clock in the evening. The priests and bishops are holding a prayer service for the health of Father Jeremiah and his 18 year-old son, Aleksandar. The prayer service is held every day.
The service is soon led by Bishop Grigorije of Zahumlje-Herzegovina. There is a delegation from the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church led by Bishop Laurentije. They convey the blessings of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle, who appeals to Serbs to remain dignified despite the difficulty of the challenges facing them.
Sighs of relief sginal the arrival of Bishop Nikolai. He looks tired and worried. He says that doctors at Tuzla Hospital are making great efforts to save the lives of father and son, Jeremiah and Aleksandar, both of whom remain in a coma. They are on life-support machines.
"Fr. Jeremiah's right hand is also broken and Aca (diminutive of Aleksandar) suffered brain damage. They were both beaten up using blunt objects," says the bishop.
The prayer service was also attended by the highest officials of Republika Srpska. After the end of the service, the gathered people ask them: "Is there anyone to protect the Serbs?"
We enter the parish hall. The entrance door on the west side was blown off using explosives. The walls are cracked, the plaster and wooden frame scattered.
"They entered in five places at the same time: through the double entrance door of the hall, through the balcony, through the windows," says a middle-aged man who lives nearby and saw everything.
He says it is is a lie that they didn't shoot. Through the window of the neighboring apartment, Fr. Miomir Zekic peeked through to see what was going on. They shot at him but missed.
Fr. Miomir joins us as we tour the destroyed parish home. The priest's mantle is missing; everything else is destroyed. He takes us to the room of 18 year-old Aleksandar Starovlah. First we jump over a big, red puddle of blood now dry. Icons, books and prayer books scattered all around. Furniture and linens overturned. The parish home destroyed.
"When they saw me at the window, they broke in like dogs; they tied up my wife and me, threw us on the floor and we stayed like that until the morning," says Fr. Miomir.
"And what happened next door with Fr. Jeremiah?" asks Bosnia-Herzegovina member Borislav Paravac.
"They beat Fr. Jeremiah; they tied up his wife and locked her in another room," the presbytera later says. "The poor man's cries could be heard for an hour. During the time, young Aleksandar couldn't be heard at all, and his despairing mother imagined the worst had happened."
BANJA LUKA - Banja Luka police confirmed that posters bearing the image of Hague indictee Radovan Karadzic pasted throughout the Banja Luka quarter of Borik. Under the picture of Karadzic was a slogan saying "Always with you".
TUZLA - Fr. Jeremiah Starovlah and his 18 year-old son Aleksandar remain in critical condition, according to chief surgeon Mirsada Prasa (Muslim name), the head of the team treating them, and the director of the Clinic for Anasthesia and Reanimation Emergency Clinical Center in Tuzla. (V.M.)