Serbia's #MeToo moment as alleged harassment victim fights lonely battle for justice

Marija Lukic walks past supporters of Milutin Jelicic as she arrives at a local court to attend the trial for sexual harassment of the former mayor of Brus.

(CNN)The first time Marija Lukic met her former boss, he locked the office door, groped her, and forcibly kissed her on the lips, she said.

It was June 2015, and the married mother-of-two had come for a job interview with the powerful head of Brus municipality, located 240 kilometers south of the Serbian capital Belgrade, hoping that her education and work experience would get her hired.
"I felt so angry and told him I won't sleep with him to get the job. I asked him to unlock the door so I could come out. I told him -- forget about this, I don't need this job, I don't need anything," Lukic told CNN.
    It was the start of two years of sexual harassment she says, during which Milutin Jelicic allegedly sent her 15,000 Whatsapp, Viber and text messages, repeatedly groped her, and told her she could only advance at work if she had sex with him, Lukic alleged.
    Jelicic, 57, has repeatedly denied all accusations, via Serbian media.
    "The opposition is using this to unjustly soil the name of the President of Serbia and the Serbian progressive party. My justice and truth I will prove in court."
    He and his attorney have not responded to CNN's questions.
    The case has culminated in a high-profile #MeToo trial that's rocked Serbia's socially conservative society, where a law criminalizing sexual harassment was introduced only in 2017.
    It also shed light on the disproportionate power wielded by local officials who hold the keys to what is often the only source of employment in small and poor communities like Brus -- government jobs.
    The former mayor of Brus, Milutin Jelicic is welcomed by supporters as he arrives at court on May 27 to attend his trial for sexual harassment.

    Serious and professional -- at first

    Lukic, 31, said the flood of inappropriate messages from Jelicic started immediately after she stormed out of his office. She ignored them for several months but got in touch with him when her sister and friends asked her to inquire about an internship payment they were expecting from a government fund, she told CNN.
    "I was reluctant because I was worried he will start coming on to me again, but my sister and her colleagues were trying to reach him for a month and were counting on that money," Lukic said.
    Jelicic was responsive and offered her the job of his secretary -- reassuring Lukic that he wanted nothing more than a smart and motivated employee. She still had no work and decided to accept, hoping that her previous conduct had set boundaries.
    During their next meeting, Jelicic was serious and professional, Lukic recalled.
    "Really, at that moment I believed that because I batted away his messages and attention, it would be different now, he wo