A tattooed master of martial arts with violent background admitted into the ranks of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton Ministry

Autor: Direkt Aktuelno Društvo
16 minuta čitanja

The Ministry of Interior of HNC had in January of this year announced a job vacancy for the recruitment of 130 police officers.

Written by: Istraživački tim Hercegovina.info

This canton has lacked police personnel for years, and this fact, caused by the absence of the police commissioner, served as an eternal alibi for the government. Whatever happens, fan fights, traffic accidents, or isolated incidents, the cantonal government has always had an answer ready: “We are missing about 300 police officers”.

Petar Drežnjak

“In line with the staff establishment plan there should be 962 police officers in the Police Administration of the Ministry of Interior of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton (HNC) and there are currently 587 police officers. Thus, a total of 375 police officers are missing. Additional 21 police officer will retire in 2024. Two weeks ago we have completed a recruitment procedure under which 160 police officers were recruited, whereof 30 are junior inspectors and 130 are police officers. They are now in training and will start working in three months, i.e. six months,” said Ljudevit Marić, the spokesperson of the Police Administration of the Ministry of Interior of HNC in August 2023.

More than 1,000 potential candidates applied to this job vacancy and the selection was done based on several criteria. The entire list can be seen here, but it has to be noted that all candidates were tested under their personal codes.

Petar Drežnjak

The job vacancy in question was carried out in line with the rulebook from 2015, according to which large and/or inappropriate tattoos on visible parts of the body (head, neck, forearms and hands) were listed as a skin disease amongst all other eliminatory conditions, such as various types of diseases, mental state, addictions and disorders, based on which the medical board has the right to reject a candidate.

Petar Drežnjak

11 candidates were rejected because of a tattoo

Several candidates, who were rejected because of a tattoo, contacted our portal after the announcement of the results. According to their statements, 11 potential police officers were rejected because of body decorations.

In the meantime, there was a change in the Government of HNC and the Minister of Interior, Slađan Bevanda, who previously commented this case for Hercegovina.info, left.

“I do know that the rule was terminated in some countries, but it is completely different here. The rulebook will probably be amended, but that were most likely be the task of a new government, a new minister. A police officer must be entirely appropriate, a new time is bringing some new rules, the rulebook will probably be adapted accordingly, but trends should not be followed zealously. A police officer must be a pillar of safety of us all”, said minister Bevanda at the end of his term.

Changes of the ministry’s leadership

New minister is Marijo Marić, a lawyer, and member of HDZ as his predecessor Bevanda. Before he assumed the office of the minister, Marić was director of the Correctional facility in Mostar. One of the recently recruited police officers, Petar Drežnjak, also comes from that institution.

Petar Drežnjak

Drežnjak, a well-known sportsman, former U23 world champion in Muay Thai, is one of 130 candidates who were admitted into the ranks of Ministry of Interior of HNC. The spokesperson of this institution, Ljudevit Marić,  has confirmed that to us.

But, why is Drežnjak so interesting, namely what is so controversial about his engagement in the police force?

Some candidates were recruited despite visible tattoos

Foremostly, we are talking about a public figure who has quite visible tattoos, but they were obviously not a limiting factor when he was recruited to the Ministry of Interior or the Correctional gacility where he is currently working. Namely, although visible, his tattoos still end at the forearm, which formally fulfills the rulebook’s requirement.

One of the conditions listed in the job vacancy is that the candidate may not be dismissed from the public administration or military service as a result of a disciplinary sanction.

We have received the following answer from the Ministry of Interior of HNC to our question on whether the candidate Drežnjak, whose competitive photos clearly show prominent tattoos all over his body, which the medical board could have hardly overlooked, has been recruited as a police officer: “Petar Drežnjak was recruited during the last recruitment procedure in line with the Law and the rules of procedure”, shortly answered Ljudevit Marić, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior of HNC.

Petar Drežnjak

We remind you of the previous minister's statement, who said that the policeman must be a pillar of safety.

Drežnjak’s tattoos aside, what we have discovered by researching his character and work deeply compromises the entire cantonal Ministry of Interior and their background check for their new police officers.

Violent behavior without any sanctions

Namely, Petar Drežnjak had undoubtedly participated in an incident that happened the day after Christmas in 2022. The Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Interior of HNC led the investigation in which all the actors were identified.

He had then, together with five friends, among whom was a colleague, also a prison warden, M.P. and the nephew of Rade Bošnjak, the former director of the Cantonal Public Health Institute, Lovro Bošnjak, physically assaulted  G.M. (48), former member of Ministry of Interior, in Mostar's neighborhood Panjevina.

They took from him a little more than 2.000 Euro, but also several hundred marks, as well as two iPhones 14, which they later threw away in the nearby bushes.

Following the attack he received medical assistance at the Emergency Department of the University Clinical Hospital (SKB) Mostar, where he was diagnosed with minor physical injuries.

The video of this attack is no longer available, but the Hercegovina.info newsroom has screenshots.

“Those arrested on reasonable suspicion of having committed the crime of “larceny” in Mostar's Vukodolska Street were released after questioning at the Prosecutor's Office of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton”, was confirmed by this institution for hercegovina.info at that time, stating that suspects are P. D. (26), D.L. (30), V.J. (29), M.P. (25) and A.M. (34) as well as L.B., who voluntarily surrendered accompanied by a lawyer, but he too was released after questioning.

As we have learned then,  the things that were listed as stolen (a large amount of money, credit cards and phones) were found in the immediate vicinity of the attack, and this was the reason why these six persons were not criminally prosecuted for larceny.

It later appeared that the physical assault of G.M. was a continuation of the conflict that started in a club in Mostar the night before. Instead of reporting G.M. to the police, they decided to take justice into their own hands.

We checked if the proceedings were initiated against Drežnjak, and we contacted the Municipal Court in Mostar.

“The CMS system contains no information or a case file related to the person Petar Drežnjak. We really have no information whether and why he was left out of the indictment,” said this Court.

Three suspects have been prosecuted for causing minor injuries, and one of the three will be prosecuted to determine the theft reported by the injured party. The other half of the “six”, including Drežnjak, was acquitted of all charges, since he was charged with the crime larceny, which didn’t exist.
Drežnjak was informed by no less than the Minister of Interior, and his former and future superior Marić that we are asking about him, so Petar Drežnjak decided to contact us.

“I am clean. The rulebook reads that forearm, hands or neck cannot be tattooed. My tattoo goes down to the elbow and is covered by summer uniform. As for that case, I was acquitted by the prosecution. I have a paper that no criminal proceedings are being conducted against me. I didn't arrange anything (using connections, author's remark). I passed the medical examination at the Health Center, and the doctors were the ones who determined who could and could not pass when it comes to the tattoos,” said Drežnjak.

We were interested to know if he denies his participation in the physical assault and the fact that he was identified on the surveillance video.

“I was acquitted by the prosecution and the court in that case, I don't need to say anything more. No one can make a mistake if I was not there. I was detained on suspicion and later released. Legally, I am completely clean. I'm not a violent criminal, I'm an athlete, I'm normal, it's not my goal to be vilified because of my sporting successes. I've been in sports all my life, I've been training, I've never stolen anything, I've never cheated anyone, I've been looking for sports results all my life, and now I'm in focus as if I'm going to be a minister,” Drežnjak told Hercegovina.info.

Petar Drežnjak

At the end he invited those who were not accepted because of tattoos to publicly disclose the drawings on their bodies, which caused them to not pass the medical examination.

“Those who have not been recruited and are calling you to accuse me, let them send their tattoos and where they are. I have trained hard, so I should not be ashamed. We are going to do physical tests and if one of those rejected is more ready than me, I will give them my place,” said Petar Drežnjak.

Unsportsmanlike conduct

The prison warden at the time had somehow managed to get away without any sanctions, both judicial and, it turns out, disciplinary, since he had committed the assault while he was employed as a prison warden. It is truly incredible that the Ministry of Interior of HNC had no information about the fact that after this event he was detained, interrogated by the Prosecutor’s Office and that there are videos and screenshots that prove his violent behavior.

We sent an inquiry to Mostar Correctional facility regarding the date until which Drežnjak was their employee, and under what circumstances and for what reasons his professional engagement in this institution had ended. We never received an answer.

It later turned out that he is still working in the Mostar Correctional facility.

We have also contacted the Muay Thai Federation of BiH with the question of whether there is an article in their rulebook that treats the situation in which an athlete, a fighter uses his skill in a street assault, for purposes other than sports.

“Any athlete, our athlete who is a member of our association, if accused of an assault, is automatically suspended. We have a statute and an article related to crimes against a person's life and body. We have a code and disciplinary regulation that are in accordance with the statute. The commission automatically suspends a person if he is an attacker and if there is a court decision, when the prosecutor's office identifies him as a defendant and the proceedings are initiated, he is permanently excluded from the association,” said this Association.

When asked if Petar Drežnjak is their member, they said that he never was. Namely, Drežnjak is a member of the Croatian Muay Thai Association. We have also contacted this association with a question about Drežnjak, but we did not receive their answer until the day this text was published. What is visible from the page of the International Federation of Muay Thai Associations is that Drežnjak’s last fight was in June 2022 against the Turk Umut Eryilmaz, which he lost, and that he was registered to participate in the 2023 European Senior Championships in the S Male Elite +91kg category, which will be held in December of this year in Turkey, which leads to a conclusions that there is nothing controversial for the Croatian Muay Thai Association.

The question is whether the leadership of the Ministry of Interior of HNC is aware of this, especially after the situation in which the two policemen, who had beaten up the young man, received suspended sentences and returned to their uniforms, which caused anger and indignation in the public.

Citizens are worried because they expect security and trust from police officers, and not the apprehension about whether their children will also become targets of violent policemen and end up in the crime news.

Petar Drežnjak

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