By: Lea Kalc Furlanič
In connection with the affair of Josip Dušan Smodej, the leader of the Fotopub artistic association, who together with his assistants allegedly sexually abused young girls at basement parties using rape drugs, unofficial information about the possible connection of his association with Levica politicians appeared in the public. Luka Mesec is mentioned above all. Both the latter and Smodej deny all accusations. Police urge victims to report.
For the past ten days, the Slovenian public has been shaken by the horrific story of the alleged sexual abuse of 28-year-old Josip Dušan Smodej from Novo mesto, a representative of the Society for Contemporary Culture Fotopub, which allegedly took place in the basement of the branch of this society on Tivolska Street in Ljubljana, and reportedly also in a rented apartment near there, and in the apartment of his friend, the 60-year-old painter Roman Uranjek. It was the latter’s death last Saturday night that set off a wave that has ever-increasing proportions. Journalist and editor Bojan Požar was the first to warn that Uranjek had committed suicide. This act is said to be connected with Uranjek’s collaboration with Smodej, but not only artistically (they organised exhibitions and other events together), the painter was allegedly also present at Smodej’s notorious basement parties.
Instagram profile exposed Smodej
The latter had been rumoured in the public or in the circles of contemporary artists for some time, but it was more or less shrouded in fog, especially the alleged sexual violence (allegedly with plenty of alcohol, BDSM practices, and the drug GHB) until not a week before Uranjek’s death, or on August 9th, a profile group Against Violence of Dušan Smodej’s appeared on Instagram social network. There are anonymous records of alleged victims of Smodej’s sexual violence, as well as his financial scams, which allegedly left him in debt to many people. After the first week, the profile had as many as 1,421 followers and 28 such posts, and a week later it already had 4,623 followers (which is a lot for Instagram) and 38 posts. The latter is regularly transcribed and published by the online portal Prava.si. For illustration, we summarise two from the Prava.si portal and Instagram profile: “Yes, I was one of those he tied to the radiator. He put ghb in my drink. Despite the fact that I asked him to let me go, I woke up with his cock inside me.”, “I was thinking recently, if a pussy can be wet enough, that I could put out a cigarette in it and not burn it,” Smodej is said to have written to one of his victims. The profile was blocked by someone at the end of last week.
The central media remained silent for 11 days
There are also some records of persons whom Smodej is said to have cheated financially. Smodej claims, as the media reports, that he is the victim of a blackmailer, and he vehemently denies all accusations of sexual violence. Požar warned that Smodej blackmailed (with videos and photos from parties) Uranjek into using his acquaintances (in politics) to help him get out of this mess… The central media started reporting on the matter only 11 days after the establishment of Against Violence of Dušan Smodej profile on Instagram. This is not a coincidence, Požar wrote, as it is said to be related to the fact that these wild parties were also attended by some prominent politicians of the Levica, whereby, according to Požar, the sources mention MP Miha Kordiš and also the coordinator of the Levica and the Minister of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, Luka Mesec. It is also known that Mesec was friends with Uranjek, as was the former member of the Levica Party, Violeta Tomić, wrote Požar. In addition, the Minister of Culture Asta Vrečko (Levica) hosted Smodej at the ministry in the middle of August (when the Instagram profile about Smodej’s violence already existed) in the role of editor of the Kulturnik portal (Beletrina publishing house). The latter immediately stopped working with him after the affair broke out. Vrečko later defended herself, saying that she did not know that Smodej would come to the interview together with journalist Nejc Krevs. They discussed the future strategy of the Ministry of Culture.
Mesec threatend Požar
Two days after Bojan Požar published the first article about the Smodej affair, Luka Mesec wrote the following on Twitter: “I never had anything to do with Smodej. I vehemently reject all insinuations in connection with him, I have never attended parties at his place, nor did I know they existed…” He accused Požar of spreading slander. However, just at that time, a video of Luka Mesec entering the premises of the Fotopub and talking to people outside the club circulated on the Internet… When Požar asked him how he commented on the information, that his private partner (dancer) Manca Krnel participated in the organisation of these parties as Smodej’s assistant, and whether other leading politicians of the Levica party also attended these parties, and if so, who, he answered that Manca Krnel never collaborated with Smodej, nor did she attend any of his parties, and that the Levica members are not even indirectly involved in anything that is written about Dušan Smodej, nor was he part of the social circle of any of the mentioned members. Minister Asta Vrečko, Požar wrote further, in contrast to Mesec, did not explicitly deny that members of the Levica did not attend controversial parties “at” Dušan Smodej’s. Požar also stated that it is not completely out of the question that some of the abused girls are even members of the March 8th Institute. But Nika Kovač and her institute, which was even founded with the aim of fighting violence against women, denies this. However, their member Maiken Kores initially worked for Smodej, but then transferred to Nika Kovač. Therefore, precisely because of (these) political names, which are supposed to appear at Smodej’s parties, the affair also acquires strong political dimensions.
Are the police investigating thoroughly enough?
The police say that they have not yet received any reports of alleged victims, so suspicions of alleged crimes in the Fotopub will be difficult to investigate. Victims are encouraged to report the acts, as this is the only way to protect them. “Since the first public information that serious crimes of sexual violence have taken place, a group of police officers and criminal investigators have been intensively investigating the matter. Namely, they check the circumstances and collect information to confirm the existence of possible grounds for suspicion that a criminal act has been committed, for which the perpetrator is being prosecuted ex officio. Police officers and criminal investigators are conducting numerous interviews, are trying to identify potential victims or aggrieved parties of these crimes, and are checking the authenticity of the records online,” the Police announced last Friday. The police are not saying anything more to protect the evidence and the victims.
Former senior state prosecutor Dragica Kotnik does not agree with the Police’s claim, saying that for anything more they must also receive an official report; Nova24TV reported that Kotnik said that the investigation is not being carried out because it is not in the interest of some. The unofficial investigation is said to be led by criminal investigator Dušan Mikolčević, who in the past has proven himself in concealing evidence in the Baričevič affair, which was swept under the rug years ago. “The fact that the investigation into the Smodej affair would be led by Mikolčević is almost a guarantee that the investigation will not take place at all. Blockades, as in the past, come from a higher level, including from the judiciary,” believes the former senior state prosecutor. She is convinced that the investigation could be conducted thoroughly now with all the evidence that is publicly known. Former Interior Minister Aleš Hojs is of the same opinion: “It is difficult for me to evaluate the work of the Police, as they have not presented it until now. Just informing that unfortunately they cannot do anything because they do not have a specific report from a victim or several of them is downright misplaced. Even if the public were informed that the investigation is taking place by collecting data, visiting the alleged crime scene, interviewing the suspect, etc. and of course, if they really implemented it, the public would undoubtedly have more confidence in their work. However, we all still remember the Baričevič affair from a few years ago, where it was more or less evident that due to the alleged involvement of important and influential individuals, the matter was tried to be swept under the rug. And the police were said to be an important actor in this concealment and deception of the public at that time. One gets the impression that this time it is very similar.”
Sexual predator and financial debtor
To make matters worse, information about the poor financial performance of the Fotopub Society has come to light in recent days. The newspaper Delo reported that the association, which Smodej led, received money from the Ministry of Culture and the municipalities of Ljubljana and Novo mesto, despite irregularities in its operation in recent years. It turned out that Smodej, as a responsible person, had not submitted reports on Fotopub’s financial performance to Ajpes in recent years, they wrote in Delo. Formally, the Fotopub Society is part of the Lokal Patriot brand from Novo Mesto, which in 2014 was handed over to the management of the Klapa Film Lovers Society, which was later renamed the Fotopub Society for Contemporary Culture. Smodej has been managing Fotopub since 2017 and had a contract until 2020. In 2018, Smodej, according to Delo, founded a Fotopub branch in Ljubljana without the knowledge of the brand owner.
Waste of public money
The Ministry of Culture explained to Delo that the Fotopub Society applied for various tenders published by the Ministry to support cultural programmes and projects, and the selection of projects is carried out by a regional expert committee, whose members change. They confirmed that Fotopub owes a substantial annual report for 2021, to which they also invited him. According to Erar’s data, between 2017 and 2021, when Fotopub was led by Smodej, the Fotopub Society received a total of just under 120,000 euros in public money, of which 54,800 euros came from the Ministry of Culture, 31,200 euros from the Municipality of Novo mesto, and 20,700 euros from the Municipality of Ljubljana, 5,640 euros from the Museum for architecture and design, 1,460 from AGRFT, 1,390 euros from the Institute of Sports and Tourism in Novo Mesto, and some lower amounts from other institutions.
In addition to the fact that the art and performances organised by Fotopub are artistically, aesthetically, expressively and morally quite controversial for many people (source: photos, videos, and comments online), many (who worked with Smodej) today testify that he remains indebted to large sums. Delo wrote that the trail of alleged non-payment and fraud has been going on for several years, and the alleged defrauded include well-known names from the world of art. So, it is not known where the public money ended up.
SDS demands an urgent meeting of the culture committee
MP Andrej Hoivik (SDS) announced on the third day after the outbreak of the Smodej affair that, in the light of recent events that reveal the sexually predatory and corrupt component of Slovenian perverted art, the party will demand the convening of an urgent meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for Culture. According to the party, it is completely unacceptable that such abuses are taking place, which is why it must be sanctioned as severely as possible. Additional concern is warranted, as audio-visual evidence is appearing in the public domain that even the top of the government or governmental party Levica may have known about the alleged abuse of young girls. SDS wants representatives of the Ministry of Culture to be able to explain at the committee meeting how the money intended for artistic creation was used, whether it was a transparent use of taxpayers’ money, and how the Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the police, will take action to prevent there will be no more malpractice and, above all, abuse.
Aleš Hojs: “It is not surprising if there is self-censorship here”
When asked why the police should not immediately investigate and protect the alleged evidence in the basement of the Fotopub and Smodej’s rented apartment, where sexual violence allegedly took place, former Minister of the Interior Aleš Hojs answered: “I do not know, and I do not understand. Or maybe they even did it, they are just not letting the public know about it. If they did not, that is what is scandalous. But we must not forget that the left-wing political option and their media, which are in a dominant position, have been saying the whole time of our government that the interventions of the police are excessive, that they have no right to legitimise individuals just like that, that in investigations an extremely high level of probability must be demonstrated that a criminal act has been committed, otherwise it is a case of disproportionate interference with human rights and the like. Now such people lead the Ministry and the Police, and it is not surprising if there is self-censorship here, and because of these people they are afraid to do what the law requires them to do.”
Psychologist Dr Andreja Poljenec: “Victims of sexual abuse are burdened with deep guilt”
Dr Andreja Poljanec, BSc. psych., spec. marital and family therapy, head of the department of psychology at the Sigmund Freud University Vienna, Ljubljana branch: “Victims of sexual abuse are burdened with deep guilt, and in addition, the victims experience heavy feelings of shame, disgust for the event, and also for themselves – as some deep disappointment. It is because of these feelings that the decision to report is difficult and complicated, as they doubt that they will really be believed in the process. It is terrible and sad that in Slovenia we are still by no means at the level of understanding and perception of the importance of zero tolerance towards violence, even in other forms. Victims are afraid or resistant to court proceedings, which in such cases are especially emotionally demanding, complex, long-lasting, and too often retraumatise the victim. The traumas of victims of this type of sexual abuse are often in the form of “flash-backs”, the emergence of anxiety disorders, self-harm, fears, especially of intimate relationships, the night, places, the emergence of depression, deep feelings of worthlessness and guilt, etc. It is recommended that every victim seek psychological or psychotherapeutic help.”
Dr Uroš Perko, psychotherapist: What drives sexual predators to commit such horrific sexual violence? Dr Perko replied: “Certainly such behaviour is deviant. Such sexual predators have no moral sense – they do not have a conscience and, in all probability, are quite disturbed in personality, psychopathic. On the other hand, it is a product of today’s modern liberal society, where there is no authority (a father without whom there is no moral sense) and a society where there are no rules, and everything is allowed. In a way, such individuals are also traumatised, or have been abused themselves, or in the form of total permissiveness.”