Eleven people were arrested at the recent G20 protests in Melbourne — one of them by mistake. His name is Drasko Boljevic. Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Christine Nixon confirmed the mistake in The Age at the time: “We have taken individuals into custody today and in one case the person was released because he wasn’t the person we thought he was.” Boljevic reported the matter to Victoria Police, which is now investigating the conduct of the officers who arrested him. Last week, Crikey called the police media unit who told us it was “inappropriate to comment” due to “ongoing investigations” and indicated there could be reasons to question Boljevic’s version of events. We have now learned that these reasons were unrelated to the arrest. So what happened to Drasko Boljevic? This is the account of his arrest by his partner, Eleonor Palacio:
In between 12 midday and 12.15pm, Sunday 19 November 2006, Drasko Boljevic, my partner, was paying for a drink at Foodworks minimart, 408 Swanston Street, in front of RMIT, while his friend Oakies was inside the store. Drasko was abducted by three bouncer-looking men dressed in casual clothes and violently taken into an unidentifiable white van, where another five of them helped holding Drasko down and handcuffed him with special plastic cuffs. Oakies heard some screams and went outside to see Drasko’s feet being carried into the unidentifiable van. He asked the abductors if they were policemen and they reply “get the f-ck out of here, get the f-ck out of this city”.
The men did not identify themselves or inform Drasko why he was being abducted. He was told to “shut the f-ck up” and that he was a “f-cking bastard” and they would “bash [him] up and smash [his] face”, while violently holding his legs crossed at his back and pushing his head against the floor of the van and sitting on it. They drove around the city for about ten minutes continuously terrorising him with this type of comments and physical force. They pulled his pants down, searched him and cut his backpack off his back. “I thought I was going to die, I could hardly breathe and I didn’t know who these people were”, Drasko said later.
They stopped at an alleyway behind Flinders Street Station and made him lie on the floor, with his pants still down, and look down, still shouting at him to “shut the f-ck up”.
Some police detectives in casual clothes arrived and identified themselves. It was not until then, about 25 minutes after his abduction, that he was informed he was arrested, no reasons for the arrest were given. They took some photos of his face, front and profile with a mobile. Then, they took him into an unidentified car and he was taken to the 412 St Kilda Road Police Station.
He started being interrogated and for the first time since the abduction he was told he was arrested for assaulting a policewoman at the G20 protest on Saturday.
Drasko was not in Melbourne on Saturday, he was on his way to Malmsbury, one hour away from Melbourne, were he played the part of an “Emu” in a cabaret show at the Town Hall. Police said later that he was arrested “on the basis of his physical similarity with a suspect”.
At this point, about 2.00 pm it was apparent that they got the wrong person, and the Constable interrogating him told him he was about to be released, and that “if this was Croatia [he] wouldn’t be so lucky”. He was finally released at 2.35pm.
After getting home in a state of shock and fear, Drasko realised he had a bruising in the right eyebrow (which is likely to become a black eye) and discomfort of the neck as immediate physical consequences of the violent way he was dealt with in the van.
Drasko contacted the Ethical Performance and Standards Office, under the supervision of Senior Constable Neil Curtis (who dealt with the case in the last instance) to inform of his physical state. They told him that “[he] should understand that in these circumstances they [the abductors] can’t take any risks” and that “they need to apply considerable force when dealing with violent suspects”.