Main defendant in trial says accused crime reporter is not guilty

When Montenegrin crime reporter Jovo Martinovic, after more than a year in pre-trial detention, finally went on trial in Podgorica on 27 October on a charge of helping a drug trafficking gang, the main defendant and accused gang leader, Dusko Martinovic (no relation), told the judge that the reporter is innocent.

Testifying in court, Jovo Martinovic, insisted on his innocence, as he has since his arrest in October 2015, reiterating that his only contacts with organized crime members were those of a crime reporter.

He answered all the questions put to him except those from prosecutor Mira Samardzic, accusing her of twisting everything in order to implicate him in criminal activity. He is being tried alongside more than 15 other accused members of a drug ring allegedly led by Dusko Martinovic, a convicted member of the so-called “Pink Panthers” gang.

The court’s attention focused on Dusko Martinovic, who testified for nearly two hours during the 27 October hearing, pleading guilty to some of the charges and absolving other defendants, including Jovo Martinovic. In his testimony, Dusko Martinovic reiterated that his only contacts with the reporter were in connection with the production of films and documentaries.

While in pre-trial detention, Dusko Martinovic had accused the prosecutor of putting pressure on him to testify against the other defendants, and staged a hunger strike in protest.

“Dusko Martinovic’s testimony is a major development and corroborates the position taken since the outset by Jovo Martinovic, who should be released pending the outcome of the trial,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

“We reiterate our support for this crime reporter, a specialist in organized crime in the western Balkans. All of his fellow journalists and colleagues recognize his professionalism.”

Jovo Martinovic is accused of having installed Viber on Dusko Martinovic’s telephone so that he could conduct his criminal activities with more discretion, and of putting him in contact with another trafficker for the purpose of creating a crime ring. The next hearing in the trial has been set for 28 November.

Montenegro is ranked 106th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

See the most recent RSF press releases about this case:

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Updated on 29.10.2016