Serbian police ban Gay Pride march
Serbian police have banned a Gay Pride march in capital Belgrade - citing security concerns but also complying with a request from the Christian Orthodox church.
Police said they were banning the march planned for Saturday because they fear a repeat of the violence in 2010, when right-wing groups attacked a Gay Pride event in Belgrade. That triggered day-long clashes with the police which left more than 100 people injured.
Last year's gay pride march was also banned.
The current ban was announced after Patriarch Irinej, head of Serbia's Christian Orthodox church, urged the government to prevent Saturday's march.
In a statement, he said such a "parade of shame" would cast a "moral shadow" on Serbia - a conservative Balkan country whose gay population has faced threats and harassment.
Allowing a Gay Pride march this year had been regarded by some as a test of Serbia's pledge to respect human rights as it seeks European Union membership. That was clear in the reaction of European Parliament official Jelko Kacin, who called the ban a "political decision that questions the rule of law in Serbia".
Secretary-general Thorbjoern Jagland of the Council of Europe, the continent's main human rights body, said he was "surprised and disappointed" that the pride event has been banned again.
"Citizens should be able to exercise their rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression," he said. "Serbia should be in a position to safeguard such an event, which is commonplace in modern democracies."
Amnesty International said the ban puts Serbia in breach of its own laws.
John Dalhuisen, the group's director for Europe and Central Asia, said: "Serbia's government is effectively going against its own legal and constitutional protections for basic rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Serbia."