Sexual assault charges against Branislav Lecic dismissed

Actor Branislav Lecic will not be prosecuted for now despite the accusations by his younger colleague, Danijela Stajnfeld, that he raped her.

The Belgrade Public Prosecutor’s Office has rejected Stajnfeld’s criminal complaint against Lecic regarding her allegations that he raped her in 2012.

“The decision to reject the application is not yet final, because Stajnfeld has the right to appeal to the appellate prosecutor’s office,” said prosecution spokeswoman Ivana Rakočević. The actress’ representative, lawyer Božo Prelević, said that she would certainly file an appeal to the prosecution’s ruling.

Lecic’s team, on the other hand, said that “if the news (about the charges being dismissed) were true, the plaintiff and his family would perceive it as an expected justice”.

Both Lecic and Stajnfeld were questioned in March this year. Lecic denied the allegations and claimed that a polygraph test had been carried out at her request. Soon after, another actress, Merima Isakovic, stated that 43 years ago, when both she and Lecic studied acting at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, he had sexually harassed her.

Stajnfeld is the latest in a series of women from Serbia and the region to speak publicly about sexual violence and abuse. Sanja Pavlovic of the Autonomous Women’s Centre believes that the ‘avalanche of confessions’ has been encouraged by social responsibility.

“They did it because of a kind of moral obligation to stop the cycle of violence, to thwart specific men, knowing what could happen to other women and girls,” she says. She also adds that that is a huge step and that “the awareness of the victims has been increased”. “I would like and hope that society has matured through these processes in recent months,” she adds.

The case of Danijela Stajnfeld provoked very strong reactions from the public – actress Mirjana Karanovic refused to act with Lecic “in protest”, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, also intervened, saying that “rape is the most disgusting crime”, but added that it was up to the judicial authorities to establish the truth.

“After gathering the necessary information and obtaining all relevant evidence in the pre-trial procedure, which the prosecution evaluated both individually and in relation to each other, it was determined that there is no legal evidence with a degree of suspicion that confirms the allegations of criminal charges,” the press release from the Prosecutor’s Office reads.

The prosecution added that, during the pre-investigation procedure, interviews were conducted with both Stajnfeld and Lecic, a copy of her documentary ‘Zaceli Me’ was also obtained in which she talks about being „raped by a well-known film mogul“, as well as the actress’ medical records.

Lecic’s legal team has said that “all the statements made by Danijela Stajnfeld are contradictory” and that “all media interpretations are full of illogicalities. The very actions and behaviour of Danijela Stajnfeld in themselves indicate a motivation which, to put it mildly, is very unusual and certainly not found in the alleged rape victims”. Lecic “thanked the public, friends and colleagues who believed in his innocence”.

“The prosecution is under pressure,” Stajnfeld said, adding that she has no doubt that “the prosecutor knows that she “has no reason to lie or make up stories about such a terrible trauma, the most terrible attack on my human being. The prosecutor even told me that he trusted me when I presented the pile of evidence’.

In 2020, Stajnfeld revealed in a documentary she made that she had been raped by a ‘powerful man in the film industry’. It is, as she says, a film about the aftermath of rape and abuse from the perspective of the victim, but also the aggressor.

“When I looked at the material I felt courageous and decided at the last minute to share my story,” she had said at the time, but without revealing the name of the attacker until spring 2021. Then, she travelled from the United States, where she had moved shortly afterwards the alleged rape, to Belgrade to testify before the Prosecutor’s Office, accusing Lecic.

“I was raped by my colleague and close friend Branislav Lecic, in May 2012,” she said in an interview for Insajder. “After four days, we acted together in a theatre play. I was shocked. I wanted to call the police immediately, but I was thinking about what could happen afterwards,” she had added.

She reveals that she decided to publicly reveal the name of her attacker after allegations of sexual harassment were made against acting teacher Miroslav Aleksic, and when Lecic presented himself in the public as “a great activist against sex crimes”.

(BBC, 13.07.2021)




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