By: Stefan Markovic

The Trial – How a Man Was Convicted of Driving a Car He Never Even Entered

Slobodan Simeunović from the village of Kruševica near Lazarevac was convicted last year for driving a car without a license. However, he neither knows how to drive nor has he ever been in that car. Read about his struggle to prove his innocence in the new CINS investigative story.

In May last year the postman on motorcycle had brought two misdemeanor charges to Slobodan Simeunović (35). The court summoned him for questioning because he was driving without a license and did not have an ID card on that occasion. He started laughing. However, the smile quickly disappeared from his face because he neither knows how to drive, nor had he ever been to Golubac. Slobodan had no idea was that this was just the start of a Kafkaesque trial.

It will turn out that the car stopped by the police a month earlier was driven by Slobodan's relative, who gave wrong information to officers. Previously, the driver offered a bribe and gave the information of a person who does not exist. In moments like these, the police officer should assume that something is wrong, explains retired police inspector Siniša Janković.

Janković told CINS that the police should have detained the driver in order to properly establish his identity. He also says that they should have searched him and thus determined whether he really did not have an ID card in his wallet.

The police, however, did none of those things. They radioed the switchboard again, from where they received a photo of the ID card of the person with this information. Then they wrote two misdemeanor charges on that person’s name.

The vehicle belonged to a woman who was sitting in the passenger seat on that occasion. Although she claimed in her testimony before the court that she saw Slobodan for the first time in her life, the four police officers claimed with great probability that it was Slobodan who was driving the car. Only one policeman said he was not entirely sure it was him. The court ruled that Slobodan was guilty.

It is common practice for verdicts to be handed down only on the basis of judges’ trust in police officers, Vladica Ilić from the Belgrade Center for Human Rights told CINS. “The fact that someone is a police officer and an official does not automatically mean that they are telling the truth,” says Ilić. The police officers did not respond to CINS journalist.

In October of last year, Slobodan was sentenced after his appeal was dismissed. He decided to pay the fine in installments, but did not give up on seeking justice. The Internal Control Department of the Ministry of Interior has not responded to CINS’ questions about how far the proceedings against the policemen have come, while the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office from Požarevac rejected the complaint against the acting judge in this case.

Read the whole investigative story on CINS website.

This investigative story has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union, as part of the project ‘PrEUgovor Policy Watch: building alliances for stronger impact in uncertain future’. The contents of this story are the sole responsibility of the authors and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.