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Thousands protest against Montenegro's government over religious law amendment

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Several thousand people rallied in the capital Podgorica on Monday.
Several thousand people rallied in the capital Podgorica on Monday.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Risto Bozovic   -  

Several thousand people have demonstrated in Montenegro over a planned amendment to religious property law.

Protestors have accused the new government of being pro-Serb because the legislation in question has been opposed by the Serbian Orthodox Church, who say the law was designed to strip the church of its property.

Many citizens waved Montenegrin flags outside the parliament building in Podgorica on Monday, where lawmakers are to discuss the proposed changes.

Despite calls to respect COVID-19 health measures, some demonstrators grouped together and chanted "treason", accusing the authorities of setting the stage for the "occupation" of Montenegro.

The protests are the first major demonstration in the country since the new government came into power by winning a slim majority in August's parliamentary election.

AP Photo/Risto Bozovic
Demonstrators have accused the country's new government of being pro-Serb.AP Photo/Risto Bozovic

Montenegro's government has denied the allegations made by the church about the law, but months of protests ahead of the election helped strengthen the opposition.

The previous government led by the pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists had steered Montenegro away from Serbian and Russian influence.

The Adriatic nation joined NATO in 2017 and is seeking European Union membership.