Montenegro: Former Athlete Sentenced for Journalist's Murder

The High Court in Podgorica has sentenced a prominent former athlete to a 19-year prison term for his involvement in the 2004 murder of a celebrated chief editor of Montenegro's highest-circulation daily newspaper.

Dusko Jovanovic Damir Mandic represented Montenegro in several European and world Karate tournaments before his arrest in June 2004.

Prosecutors said he was the accomplice in the murder of Jovanovic, who was shot dead in front of his office in Montenegro's capital on May 27, 2004.

However, the court freed Mandic in December 2006 because of lack of evidence.

In 2009, Mandic was tried again in the same case and sentenced to 30 years in prison, only for the verdict to be overturned in July 2014.

Then, in February this year, Mandic was once again put on trial on the basis of testimony from a protected witness.

The legal saga came to an end on Thursday, Oct. 22, when Mandic was sentenced to 19 years in jail.

Although the court heard that Mandic did not work alone, he is the only person against whom charges have successfully been brought. Authorities believe it was a contract killing, but they say they don't know who ordered it or why.

Dusko Jovanovic, the founder and editor-in-chief of Montenegro's highest-circulation daily newspaper Dan, known for its opposition stance, had reportedly received many death threats before his murder.

According to Montenegrin national television RTCG, prosecutor Vesna Jovicevic told the court in her closing statements it had been proven that Mandic was one of the assassins who killed Jovanovic 11 years ago.

Apart from witness testimony, the prosecutor put forward evidence that Mandic's DNA was found on the gun used to shoot Jovanovic, as well as ballistic evidence from Mandic's clothing.

Mandic's lawyer, Velibor Markovic, argued unsuccessfully that there would have been more ballistic evidence had Mandic really shot his gun from the car, as was claimed in his indictment.

Markovic said he would appeal the sentence at the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights.