Jovo Martinovic: Six years of a legal saga with no end in sight

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PODGORICA, 19.11.2021 – More than six years have passed since the arrest of investigative journalist Jovo Martinovic and the beginning of the court saga in which he spent more than 14 months in detention, received one conviction and then a disputed verdict, and is currently awaiting a Supreme Court decision on a re-conviction.

Martinovic explained for the “” that on the occasion of the verdict of the Court of Appeals from March this year (which confirmed the conviction of the High Court in Podgorica), he submitted a request for protection of legality, as an extraordinary legal remedy. By the verdict of the Podgorica High Court, Martinovic was sentenced to one year in prison for alleged drug smuggling.

“I first submitted the request for protection of legality to the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office, which routinely rejected it without reading it. I appealed the decision to the Supreme Court in early June and have been waiting for an answer ever since. I don’t know what to expect. The acting judge will decide on the basis of the law and the facts, or he will follow the instructions of Djukanovic’s party”, Martinovic said.

He recalled that the request was based on three disputed facts in the proceedings before the High Court presided over by Judge Vesna Pean.

“Ms. Vesna Pean was illegally appointed to preside over the Trial Chamber by the High Court because, as a judge who participated in the investigative phase of the proceedings against me, she had to be excluded from further proceedings by law. As such, Ms. Pean was biased during the trial, to which I gave a few examples, and I believe she acted more as an official of Djukanovic’s party than as a judge. Also, the cooperating witness illegally received that status and testified in exchange for the forgiveness of the crime, not against the head of the criminal organization, but against me, who was charged with a much lower degree of guilt than his”, said Martinovic.

He does not see the end of that process.

“Even if my appeal to the Supreme Court succeeds, then the procedure would only return to the beginning,” Martinovic said.

If he also receives a negative answer from the Supreme Court, Martinovic announces an appeal to the Constitutional Court.

“In the practice of the Constitutional Court, there are already several judgments upholding appeals on the same grounds as mine, so I think it will be very difficult for the current judgment to pass the Constitutional Court. Ultimately, I will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights as a last resort”, he said.

He tells journalists who find themselves in a similar situation that the most important thing is to do their job professionally, ethically and to put the truth above everything.

“A clear conscience is the greatest capital that helps to get through all adversity. In any case, I would not want anyone, including party judges, prosecutors and their clients, to go through the same or similar as I did”, he added.

There is a lot of room for improving the position of journalists in Montenegro. The conditions for the work of journalists, he believes, have not changed much since the election of the new government in December last year.

“In fact, we now have more dual power than the new government. The prosecution, the judiciary and significant parts of the security services are still in the hands of the old regime and the president, so these are all limiting factors in journalistic work. Most journalists still work under eavesdropping, surveillance and are attacked at any time. That is why some of them still have self-censorship when they see that no previous attack on journalists has been resolved. I am afraid it will remain so until there is a broader social consensus and action to improve the situation”,  Martinovic concluded.