Slovenia police fire tear gas at Covid-19 protest rally

LJUBLJANA (AFP) - Slovenian police used water cannons and tear gas on Wednesday (Sept 15) to disperse thousands protesting against toughened Covid-19 restrictions.

Police said around 8,000 people attended the demonstration, making it the biggest so far against health restrictions in the small Alpine country of two million.

"Police intervened to disperse the rally after protesters started throwing bottles, stones and fire crackers," a police statement said.

Private news website N1 reported some officers had been injured, and several protesters had been detained as smaller groups continued to clash with police in the centre of the capital Ljubljana.

The latest restrictions that came into force on Wednesday include a so-called "PCT" certificate as a condition to go to work or visit shops.

To obtain a certificate citizens will need to have either been vaccinated, tested or to have recovered from the virus.

They come as the number of those infected surges with only 45 per cent of the population vaccinated.

"Stop the corona fascism" or "Freedom, where are you?!" read some of the banners at the protest, organised through social networks by groups, including those denying the existence of Covid-19.

Interior Minister Ales Hojs in a tweet blamed the opposition and media for the protest violence. "With violence and vandalism protesters show what leftist fascism looks like. Mainstream media journalists will again say they are not responsible," Hojs tweeted.

He compared the protest to the one against the government organised in November 2020, when more than 15 police officers and a journalist were injured.

Conservative Prime Minister Janez Jansa has frequently attacked the media. The ex-Yugoslav nation currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.