By now we all know what happens when you travel from Serbia to Liberland: the Croatian Police immediately arrest and charge you with illegally entering Croatia (even as Croatia admits that this land is not part of Croatia).
On July 5th Crom, a native of Brazil, was arrested for entering Liberland by boat from Serbia. He was abducted across the Croatian border and charged with an illegal border crossing. Crom was given 8 days of house arrest while awaiting trial. His passport was held and he was given firm instructions: do not leave Croatia. This is a familiar story that we have all heard before.
Crom saw this as an opportunity to make a point. On the last day of his house arrest he decided to take a walk to the area where he was arrested, the very place where he allegedly entered Croatia illegally. Along with his friend, Nicolai, he walked four hours to the edge of the Danube River, in the area we call Liberland, and sat on its sandy beaches to wait. The Croatian police eventually came and arrested them. The charge? Illegally exiting Croatia into Serbia!
This is the point that Liberlanders have been trying to make all along. If you go in by boat from Serbia, they arrest you and call the land Croatian. If you go in by foot from Croatia, they arrest you and call the land Serbia. It couldn’t be more clear: Croatian Police are breaking the law and making false arrests.
Today, in what can only be described as a show trial, Crom was found guilty of the following:
1) Illegally entering Croatia (entering Liberland from Serbia via international waters)
2) Illegally exiting Croatia (going to the same spot from Croatia by foot)
3) Illegal staying in Croatia (they refused to explain why he was charged and convicted of this)
4) Violating terms of house arrest (by leaving Croatia)
5) Illegal use of flags (also currently unexplained)
Crom has been sentenced to 58 days in the notorious Osijek Prison, where hard criminals including murderers are held.
Worse yet, the judge did not allow Crom’s Croatian attorney to offer a defense. She was prohibited from introducing evidence of his innocence, including the videos of his arrests, cadastral maps of Croatia and statements from the Croatian government. The contradictions of the charges (the fact that he was on trial for two charges that contradict one another) were not entered into the record and were not considered by the judge.
Complaints of excessive use of force against Crom were also not heard. Crom has also accused the police of racism and hate-speech, stating that the police have referred to him as “the nigger”.
Niels “Yoshi” Harmsen, a member of the Liberland Red Cross who had entered Liberland to observe and offer emergency aid was also convicted of Illegally entering Croatia and illegal use of a flag. Yoshi was carrying a white flag with a red cross, an internationally protected symbol. Yoshi was sentenced to 10 days, also in Osijek Prison.
Under international law borders must be well defined. It is unfair, unjust and illegal for the police to use the Danube River (shown in blue below) as the border one day and the historical border (shown in red below) the next day.
Adding to the confusion and hypocrisy, the police are allowing Croatian citizens, and apparently only Croatian citizens, to enter this land. The Croatian police told local media this week that Croatians may enter “Siga” (their name for Liberland) with no restrictions. Three civilians were captured swimming and playing in Liberland the day before Crom and Nicolai were arrested for walking to the same beach.
All of the above offers evidence that Croatia is behaving militantly towards this land despite not claiming it. Though they insist that the land belongs to Serbia, their police occupy the area constantly, and arrest all foreigners from the land while inviting Croatians to come onto the land. It is difficult how any of this is acceptable now that Croatia is a full member of the European Union. EU citizens are guaranteed equal access to all EU nations as well as equal application of the law in all member nations.
Crom remains defiant and insists he will not pay any fines and will remain in jail until somebody can prove to him that this land belongs to Croatia. We are peaceful people who respect the laws of Croatia. All we ask is that the laws are applied fairly and uniformly to everybody, including those who support the idea of Liberland.