tv Focus on Europe PBS May 1, 2017 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT
♪ damien: hello, and welcome to "fokus on europe." great you could join us. i'm damien mcguinness. and today, we're off to serbia, where a new president has just been elected. now, he wants to modernize the country -- but at all costs. a whole new area is springing up in the capital, belgrade. but to make that happen, one night, businesses were suddenly demolished. the owners called the police for help, but no help came. "police have really let citizens down," says this man. but more on that later in the program. she was just 13 years old, but for over a year, an italian girl was repeatedly gang-raped by a group of local men. and almost as shocking is that
many people in her village knew what was happening and did nothing to prevent it. that's because that area of southern italy is in the firm control of a local mafia family, and one of the alleged rapists is the son of a powerful mafia boss, who is serving time in prison. the problem is that local people still don't want to face up to what happened, as our reporter ellen trapp has been finding out. now, for her own safety the girl herself isn't able to talk, so some of these scenes have been reconstructed. ellen: melito di porto salvo, a town of 12,000 in southern calabria, is a mafia stronghold. a young girl is said to have been raped here -- by seven or more young men, repeatedly, for years -- from the time she was 13. we'll call her lucia. many people here are said to have known about it and looked away. we struck up a conversation with a local daycare teacher. but when our talk turned to the rapes, she clammed up.
>> i can't understand you. ellen: the mayor, giuseppe meduri, defends his community. he says he knows and respects lucia's parents. mayor meduri: if everyone had known about it, we would have to say that the state has failed in its duty. it's not true. it's unthinkable and unimaginable that everyone here knew about it. ellen: what happened? lucia was 13 years old when her first flirtation with a young man from the town ended. jealousy is said to have played a role. the former boyfriend and his friends took revenge by raping her again and again. the alleged assailants include the son of the local mafia boss and the brother of a police officer. lucia's ordeal continued for about two years. we met the public prosecutor who
began investigating the case in september 2015. he says lucia wrote down in extensive detail what was done to her, when, and by whom. mr. paci: when a case reaches a magnitude like this one, where there were several people abusing this girl at various times, in various places, often with a great deal of premeditation and planning going into it, then there's no way this could have gone completely unnoticed. ellen: many locals still subscribe to "omerta" -- the mafia's code of silence. public prosecutor gaetano paci believes that's true in melito as well. he's worked in southern italy for 30 years, battling the mafia, and knows how powerful they can be. in summer 2015, lucia described what was happening to her in an essay for school. the teacher decided to take action.
she informed lucia's parents, then accompanied them to the police. lucia had by then already told her mother everything, but hadn't been believed. her father told the son of the local mafia boss to stop tormenting his daughter, to no avail. several times a week, young men assaulted an unwilling, under-aged girl in a car. it's hard to believe that no one knew, or at least suspected, a thing. even now that the story is out, there's no public outcry in town. the power of the mafia seems unlimited here. >> no, i never heard anything about it. >> this could happen anywhere, in any country on earth. >> she's the daughter of a friend of mine. a respectable family. but these things happen. ellen: claudio cordova is dismayed by the town's response.
the journalist has been threatened by the mafia for years, and knows the town well. he knows how much people fear the mafia here. mr. cordova: the lamonte family controls everything. melito's municipal administration has been disbanded several times because the ndrangheta and the lamontes infiltrated it. anyone who wanted to start a business gets harassed by the lamonte family. it begins with intimidation and moves on to damage and threats. ellen: houses in the outskirts of melito -- all owned by the lamonte clan -- are said to have been where some of the assaults took place. claudio cordova says lucia's case is not an isolated one. mr. cordova: another girl was also raped for years by a group of young mafiosi. the priest at her church was found guilty of false testimony and failure to render assistance. in other words -- of covering up these assaults. ellen: gang rapes are not
unusual here. the regional child protection officer agrees with that conclusion. but the problem in italy is not just the mafia -- it's also the taboo against talking about sex. mr. marziale: the highest italian court once ruled that women who wear jeans provoke rape. and one time, when the wife of a naval officer was raped in a subway station in rome and then killed, the court ruled that if the woman had not tried to defend herself, she would probably still be alive. ellen: lucia is still alive, but she's no longer in melito. she now lives in an undisclosed location in northern italy. her parents' whereabouts are also a secret.
the alleged rapists are in pre-trial detention, facing prison sentences of up to 20 years. and the residents of melito? many will have to live with a guilty conscience for having looked away. damien: the eight suspects have been arrested, of course, but still, it's incredible that the mafia still has such power in some parts of italy. just imagine, you're a teenager and you go to school, and then suddenly one day you find out that some of your classmates are about to be deported. that's the experience of schoolchildren in the eastern german town of cottbus. that's because german authorities are now deporting migrants whose applications for asylum have been rejected. over the past two years, more than one million refugees and migrants have come to germany. but not all of them are then granted the right to stay. and with parliamentary elections coming up in september, the government here is keen to show voters who are nervous about migration that failed asylum-seekers are sent back,
even when they're still at school. their classmates though, in cottbus, at least, are not accepting the decision without a fight. reporter: this group of high school students is meeting up to plan their next move. 17-year-old vincent rau and his friends in cottbus are trying to prevent three afghan classmates from getting deported. mr. rau: there still a war going on in afghanistan. the german military is there, preventing -- or trying to prevent terrorism. there's terrorism, attacks and kidnappings there every day. the country simply isn't safe. you can't deport people there. reporter: wali yousafzai is one of the students who is scheduled for deportation. in 2015 he fled kunduz in northern afghanistan. he's been attending school in cottbus for a year. mr. yousafzai: my heart swells
when i see how my classmates are helping my friends and me. they stand by me and are doing all they can. they love us and we love them. reporter: wali doesn't understand everything his german classmates are saying. in kunduz, he never went to a proper school. now he spends four hours a day learning german. when he tells his own story, he prefers to do it in his native language. the taliban abused and threatened him, he said, and he fled via the balkans. he says he was shocked when his asylum application was rejected. mr. yousafzai: if you've never experienced it, you don't know how awful it is. i couldn't sleep for two nights after the rejection letter came. i kept thinking about my hearing and what i'd done wrong. i had no money for an attorney. i was at my wit's end. mr. rau: i burst into tears in front of the entire class. i couldn't speak because i was so upset.
two hours later, our entire class got together. it was hard for everyone when they learned our classmates would have to go. reporter: so the students decided to do something. they made posters, organized concerts, and collected donations. they've collected around 2000 euros to pay for a lawyer to represent wali. the students also drafted an online petition they hope will force the local state parliament to take up the case again. it's already received more than 70,000 signatures, as well as the odd piece of hate mail. mr. rau: someone wrote on facebook that he hoped we drowned in the wave of refugees. mr. roskos: people called us rich hippies. we were just lumped together in one group. people didn't listen. that hurts. reporter: the city of cottbus has been of no help.
a spokesman said that if an asylum request has been refused, local authorities have no choice but to carry out a deportation. mr. glossmann: in individual cases it can be regrettable, but we need a legal basis for everything we do. sometimes it may seem a bit heartless, but that's the way it is. we have to stay within the framework we're given, and treat everyone the same. reporter: vincent and his classmates aren't giving up. they're collecting signatures on the streets. but it isn't easy to get locals to take an interest in three young afghan refugees. racially motivated crimes have been on the rise in cottbus since 2015. the classmates always go out to collect signatures in groups, often without success. >> ask someone else. mr. rau: the least of it is when they take away our flyers. we've gotten into fights, which
really isn't necessary and is dangerous. all that needs to happen is for someone to have some pepper spray in his pocket. if you get that in your eyes, you have to go to the hospital. reporter: in the evening, the students play football -- it's a welcome chance for wali to show what he can do. wali dreams of finishing school in germany and training as a mechanic. his lawyer has appealed his rejected asylum application, so for the time being, he can stay. still, wali doesn't like being home alone. he's afraid the police will come get him. mr. yousafzai: i can't go back to kunduz or kabul. there are so many spies that would betray me to the taliban for money, and they'd do me harm. reporter: the students have set up a telephone chain. if the police do show up,
vincent and his friends will gather at wali's apartment. that would at least be a show of solidarity, even though they know they couldn't prevent wali from being deported. damien: great to see how politically engaged some young people are. and given that this is a part of the country with violent anti-migrant groups though, they're also taking risks. this issue is one of the most controversial in germany right now. some countries have been declared safe by the german government, which means asylum-seekers from those regions are invariably sent back. but can we really call places like afghanistan safe? let me know what you think about that or any of the stories on today's show. vladimir owns a transport company in serbia. but when he went to work one morning, his company buildings had vanished. overnight, masked, unidentified men had turned up with bulldozers and demolished them, as well as other properties of other businesses, all to make
way for a new government-backed building project. it's all part of the serbian government's attempts to redevelop the center of the capital, belgrade. reporter: another cold morning in belgrade, especially up on this wind-swept building site. many days there are three shifts working around the clock. serbia is pouring all its resources into the project, which aims to give the capital a new, modern face. >> at first i thought it was a joke. but now, we can see it's going to provide a lot of work for many years to come. so, i'm happy. it enables us to feed our families. and our belgrade of the future is going to look amazing. reporter: this is what that future is supposed to look like, according to the abu dhabi investors, and aleksander vucic.
president-elect vucic: there'll be a 200-meter-tall tower in the middle -- belgrade's next landmark. there used to be mice and rats scurrying around in this area. snakes, even. but now it's been cleaned up. reporter: true enough, although there was no public tender for the exclusive development. for most people in serbia, that's business as usual -- including vladimir markovic, until he had first-hand experience of the project's less savory side. at 2:00 a.m. on april 25, 2016, surveillance camera footage showed a digger approaching -- accompanied, say eye witnesses, by a group of masked men. they were there to demolish a block of buildings in the savamala district. they included the premises of vladimir markovic's haulage firm, which were razed to the ground, as were the properties of other local businesses.
the demolition squad arrived without warning. fortunately, nobody was inside the buildings at the time. mr. markovic: i went straight to the police. but at the station, they told me they had instructions to refuse my complaint. it was unbelievable, because it's against the law. reporter: until recently, sasa jankovic was the federal ombudsman -- a position that gave him access to the transcripts of police phone calls. and they showed that a number of residents had dialed the emergency services number on the night in question -- to no avail . mr. jankovic: all i could do was write a report saying that the police had abandoned the local people. the masked men were given a free hand. reporter: but who were the masked men, and who sent them? and who ordered the police to stand down? investigative journalist sandra
petrusic wanted answers about the scandal -- above all, from interior minister nebojsa stefanovic. her employer, news magazine "nin," put her expose on its front page. ms. petruic: he refused all requests for an interview. he refused to provide information on the background to the demolition in savamala, or on the behavior of the police. reporter: the article didn't do much. the minister responded by suing petrusic and the magazine for defamation. in a major blow to her and other critical journalists, the court found in favor of the minister. his supporters celebrated on hearing the ruling. it's the only court case to date connected to the scandal against a journalist, rather than the people actually responsible for the scandal. the magazine was ordered to pay the minister damages of around 2500 euros. sandra petrusic plans to file an
appeal. ms. petruic: the minister denies any knowledge, but somebody in his ministry and the police had to have known about it, and the interior minister should have taken an interest in that, the very next day after the demolition. i still wonder why he didn't order an internal investigation. reporter: vladimir markovic and other people affected by the demolitions are determined to continue their fight. after losing his business premises, markovic's only hope is that the prosecutors will bring charges against those responsible. but there's no sign of that happening any time soon. a growing number of people in serbia believe that the courts are now knuckling under to political pressure from above. mr. markovic: i'm really worried. where's our country headed to these days?
what does the future hold if what happened to me goes unpunished? this is a violation of fundamental civil rights. i want to see a more stable serbia, with independent institutions. reporter: marcovic wants the rule of law to be upheld, but not everyone in serbia shares his priorities. meanwhile, work at the country's biggest building site continues apace. a flashy waterside development that will give belgrade a luxurious facelift -- if need be, even at the cost of the civil rights of its citizens. damien: they live in central europe, and with ancient pagan magic, they can heal the sick. at least that's what many local people believe in the carpathian mountains on the border of ukraine and poland. known as molfars, they're sort of like witch doctors, or shamans, and they use herbs and folk traditions to deal with all sorts of illnesses, from asthma to cancer. but they can also cast spells
and curses, and they even say they can predict the future. our reporter was skeptical, so he decided to go to the mountains of western ukraine to meet molfar magdalena to find out just how powerful her healing powers are. reporter: the landscape around the settlement of verkhovyna in the carpathians is remote and magical, so it's perhaps understandable that the region is associated with magic. this is magdalena mochiovski. she is a molfarka -- as the female molfar are known. she personifies the secret knowledge of her homeland. ms. mochiovksi: you can't become a molfar. you have to be born one. molfars have sacred knowledge that is passed down for generations. reporter: people here have
always been religious -- there are 40 churches for some 30,000 people in verkhovyna. and their faith predates christianity. magdalena shows us the tools of her trade -- a nail pendulum, a dull knife, and herbs. she says she can use these things to heal people. oracle bones are used to foretell the future. they come from rabbits. this one helps ward off the evil eye. ms. mochiovksi: you can recognize a witch by looking through a witch bone. reporter: we buy some bread and water. we're supposed to keep them overnight so that a molfar can read the future. we're skeptical. people in the carpathians earn money from tourism and timber. their spirituality is heavily
influenced by ancient practices. magic and shamanism have learned to co-exist here alongside christianity -- or is it the other way around? molfars use christian symbols as well, and they mix prayers in with ancient spells. there's something amiss between this woman -- pawla -- and her neighbor. only a magic will help. dovbush, the molfar, uses a pendulum to make the diagnosis. mr. dovbush: show me who is my friend and who is my enemy. do you feel something on your palm? warmth? you have a good friend who envies you your work. reporter: before things get really serious, pawla has to put a coin on the side of the path. it's a toll for demons. then dovbush and pawla withdraw. mr. dovbush: burn, burn, my black pain. don't forget to burn the queen
of pain. return to her, torture her, punish her, don't spare her during the day or the night. reporter: pawla says she's relieved. molfar dovbush has promised her neighbor's envy will disappear. faith and superstition are as inseparable as smoke and air in the carpathians. recently, molfars have been conjuring on behalf of their entire country, ukraine, which is waging war against separatists in the east. magdalena recites a spell for protection. ms. mochiovksi: just as smoke leaves fire, so shall the enemy leave our borders, today and for all time. reporter: we head on by horse-drawn cart to a town high up in the mountains to see another celebrated molfarka. this woman is 72, but people still come to her.
she doesn't want to tell our fortune today, but does show us how it's done. >> you need bread. it's put three times into water, and you count from nine to one. if everything's fine, the bread will float. if not, it sinks. reporter: but we've come during fasting season, and it's forbidden to practice magic right now. the woman says that politicians also have their fortunes told, but she's careful around them. politicians from kyev reportedly also consulted the famous molfar mykhailo nechay. five years ago, he was discovered stabbed to death. magdalena believes it was a political assassination. ms. mochiovksi: he knew ukraine's future, and he spoke many times of a war that was about to break out. so they probably decided to kill him so his secrets would go to the grave with him.
reporter: whatever the truth, magic hasn't been able to protect ukraine from war. damien: pagan traditions meet christian devotion -- a very european combination. well, that's it for this week. thanks very much for watching. do feel free to get in touch on twitter, email, or facebook with your thoughts or comments, we always love hearing from you. but for now it's goodbye from me and the whole team here. and do join us next week for more personal stories from all over europe. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
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