PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Police on Thursday sealed off the central part of Montenegro's capital to prevent protests by pro-Serb opposition against a proposed law regarding religious communities and property.
Dozens of police officers put up metal barriers in Podgorica ahead of a parliamentary debate on the bill. Police said they banned the opposition rally because it had not been announced in time.
The draft law says religious communities would need to produce evidence of ownership of their property from before 1918, when Montenegro joined a Balkan kingdom.
The Serbian Orthodox Church says the law will strip it of its property, including medieval monasteries and churches. The government has denied that.
Montenegro's population of around 620,000 is predominantly Orthodox Christian and the main church is the Serbian Orthodox Church. A separate Montenegrin Orthodox Church isn't accepted by other Orthodox Christian churches.
Montenegro's pro-Western president has accused the Serbian Orthodox Church of promoting pro-Serb policies and seeking to undermine the country's statehood since it split from much larger Serbia in 2006.
Montenegrins remain divided over whether the small Adriatic state should foster close ties with Serbia.