The Higher Court in Podgorica on Tuesday sentenced investigative journalist Jovo Martinovic to one and a half years in prison for alleged drug trafficking and membership in a criminal organisation.
Martinovic told BIRN that the verdict was politically motivated and not based on facts.
“I have been convicted for being a journalist,” Martinovic said. “If I really had any business with marijuana I would have been acquitted, like all those who are really in the narcotics [business],” he added.
The verdict was condemned by the international organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which said the charges were “trumped-up”.
Martinovic was arrested in October 2015 alongside 17 others from Montenegro in a joint operation conducted with Croatian police.
He spent almost a year and a half in custody before being released in January 2017. International human rights and media organisations have demanded his release, following claims that the prosecution pressured another suspect in the case to falsely accuse him.
Martinovic has always insisted that his contacts with the other suspects were solely linked to his work as a journalist.
BIRN reported that Martinovic had interactions with two of the other 17 suspects in the alleged drug-trafficking scheme as part of his journalistic work. They were Dusko Martinovic – no relation to Jovo – and Namik Selmanovic.
Dusko Martinovic, the main suspect, is also a convicted member of the so-called “Pink Panther” gang of jewel thieves. Jovo Martinovic worked with him on a series of TV shows by the VICE media group about the robbers.
He worked alongside Selmanovic when the French production company CAPA Presse hired them to contribute to research on a documentary about weapons smuggling.
Dusko Martinovic was sentenced to six years and three months in prison. Selmanovic has turned state’s evidence.
Jovo Martinovic told BIRN that he would appeal the verdict.
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