By Bojana Barlovac
While a Serbian Orthodox priest accused of killing a patient at a rehab centre is scheduled to appear in court, other drug addicts have abandoned the church-run addiction treatment facility.
Branislav Peranovic, a priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church, is due to appear in court in the eastern Serbian town of Sabac on Wednesday afternoon.
The priest, accused of murdering a drug addict, is currently held in custody, claiming the right to remain silent in the absence of his lawyer.
On Monday night, Peranovic killed a 39-year-old man at the church-run rehabilitation centre, ‘Sretenje,’ in the village of Jadranska Lesnica, by hitting him in the head with a bar.
A fellow-patient, 25-year old Ljubodrag Njagojev, says he heard horrible noise coming from a nearby house where the man was killed.
“Noise was coming from all sides, I heard the sounds of something breaking and cries for help. Then a silence came and later we heard the ambulance sirens and the police,” Njagojev told the Serbian daily newspaper Press.
According to Njagojev, the residents learned of the tragedy the next morning.
Soon after, as many as 50 residents of the clerical-run rehab centre left the institution.
The centre was treating mostly young men with serious drug problems. The patients’ families paid for the service according to their abilities.
The Serbian Orthodox Church has strongly condemned the incident and announced a comprehensive investigation into the case.
Bishop Porfirije said that both the church and the state should bear responsibility for the incident.
“We are all directly or indirectly responsible for letting this man, under the guise of the church, do something that has nothing to do with the gospel,” the bishop said.
Peranovic came under the spotlight in 2009 when TV footage revealed the brutal methods he used to treat drug addicts in the church-run camp at Crna Reka.
The recording showed patients being assaulted with shovels and punched in the face.
The Serbian Orthodox Church condemned his behaviour at the time. The then bishop in charge of the Raska Diocese dismissed Peranovic from his managerial post and closed the rehab centre at the Crna Reka monastery.
Peranovic was taken to court and the verdict is still pending.
In the meantime, Peranovic voluntarily left the monastery of Crna Reka and in 2010 became the head of the Sretenje centre for addiction treatment.
When asked why Peranovic is still a priest, Porfirije said that his case must have been forgotten during the controversy surrounding the fraud of former Bishop Artemije.
According to Porfirije, Peranovic must not only be deprived of his ecclesiastical rank, but he should be expelled from the church.
“I would not prejudge the process before the ecclesiastical court, but someone else should be called to account,” the bishop noted.