Visitors of the MESS Theatre Festival in Sarajevo on Sunday managed to enter the festival venue to watch a play by Croatian director Oliver Frljic even though the festival's management earlier decided that the play would be performed only before the jury because it had received threats and demands that the play be removed from the festival's programme.

"We want the play", shouted a group outside the Sarajevo National Theatre where theatre-goers with purchased tickets gathered despite announcements that the performance would be staged behind closed doors due to security reasons.

The performance was earlier opposed by the Croatian cultural society "Napredak" and several Bosniak associations which claimed that the play offended the religious feelings of Catholics and Muslims.

Napredak said Frljic's play, called "Our violence and your violence", was blasphemous and was not an act of artistic provocation but rather a blatant insulting of citizens' and believers' feelings. 

The MESS management therefore decided to restrict access to the theatre hall, citing as the reason numerous threats and the inability to ensure the audience's safety.

Regardless of the announcement, dozens of people who had bought tickets for the play gathered outside the theatre amid tight security, to protest against what they called censorship and intimidation.

After a brief argument with the festival's organisers, the visitors were allowed into the threatre, with MESS director Nihad Kresevljakovic telling an enthusiastic audience that he could not guarantee their safety.

In the audience were numerous Sarajevo actors who came to express support for Frljic's play.

The citizens' protests were joined by members of Our Party (NS), which in the recent local elections scored very good results in Sarajevo municipalities.

"The organisers of the festival must take over responsibility, together with the Ministry of the Interior, and stop giving in to what is evident political pressure. We welcome citizens who, as the festival organisers have said, came to see the performance 'at their own risk', and thus stood up in defence of freedom of expression and assembly in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Our Party said in a statement, stressing that religious groups could not be allowed to determine what plays would be performed in theatres.

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