Veran Matić – It is urgent to determine the oversights that enabled the escape of the accused for threatening the journalist Ana Lalić Hegediš

5. July 2024.
The escape of Saša Ilić, accused of the criminal offense of endangering the safety of journalist Ana Lalić Hegediš, requires an urgent search for the fugitive, because he violated the decision of the judge for the preliminary proceedings on house arrest with electronic monitoring. 
Veran Matić. Foto: Nebojša Babić

Veran Matić, executive director of ANEM and member of the Permanent Working Group for the Safety of Journalists

It is necessary to locate the accused as soon as possible, because the threats for which he was arrested were aimed at taking life and causing injuries, expulsion, along with brutal sexist messages. It is necessary to prevent him from carrying out the actions he mentioned in the threatening messages. 

Since his travel documents were confiscated, he could only leave the country illegally, and it is possible that he is also hiding in Serbia, which means that he may be walking around Novi Sad next to the already endangered Ana Lalić Hegediš and Dinko Gruhonjić, whom he threatened. 

Since he has two identities: in the Serbian passport, he goes under the name of Saša Ilić, and in the French one as Ilber Alexandre, which were taken from him, it is possible that he has some other identification document with which he could have crossed the border. 

It is necessary to request an urgent check whether the accused is at his place of residence in Paris, or at his place of work, about which there is available information. 

The request for urgent extradition to the judicial authorities of Serbia should follow. 

We will ask the French journalists’ associations, as well as the organization Reporters Without Borders, to help us collect this data, in order to speed up the bureaucratic procedures. 

It is necessary to establish how it was possible for the accused Saša Ilić to leave his place of residence with an ankle bracelet, without the competent service for extra-institutional sanctions registering it, that is, without the police launching a comprehensive search for the accused. Instead, the patrols visit the place of residence that the accused left after removing the ankle bracelet. 

The check was carried out on June 1 and 4 with the same results. Why wasn’t a search warrant issued? 

One of the neighbors says that he last saw Ilic on May 31 in the morning hours, so it is certain that on that day he left the place that the judge assigned him for the preliminary proceedings. 

We expect that responsibility for all committed oversights will be determined. 

How is it possible that the GPS locator on the ancle bracelet did not work, or did not exist? 

Why weren’t the prosecution and the court informed about the escape on June 1?

Or if they were informed, why the search was not ordered? 

Why were the victims Ana Lalić Hegediš and Dinko Gruhonjić not informed on the same day that the person who threatened them was on the run? 

The MIA in Novi Sad should provide for journalists who were threatened by a person who is on the run. 

Why was nothing done on this issue for a whole month, and the escape was only found out after the accused did not appear at the trial? 

I expect the Ministry of Justice to determine all oversights and punish those responsible and inform the public about it. 

Just as a reminder: 

On March 11, 2024, Saša Ilić sent threatening messages to Ana Lalić Hegediš from Paris. After the report, the Prosecutor’s Office for Combating High-Tech Crime very quickly manages to locate and identify the perpetrator, issuing a search warrant.

When entering the country, Saša Ilić was detained by the police. On that occasion, the tool with which the criminal offense was committed was taken from him – a mobile phone and the evidence – a device from which a threat was sent. 

During the hearing, on March 21, the defendant admitted to the crime committed. 

The prosecution proposed prison custody on March 31, 2024, and the High Court in Belgrade ordered a milder measure – a ban on leaving the apartment. After two months, on May 28, 2024, an indictment was filed, the court extended the ban on leaving the apartment, and the defendant, who confessed to the crime, violated the measure after three days and ran away.