Appeals court orders imprisonment of Macedonian reporter

The Skopje Court of Appeals in the capital, Skopje, on January 15, 2015, reduced Tomislav Kezarovski’s prison term from four and a half years to two years, but ordered the journalist to serve the remaining time–four and a half months–in jail, according to regional and international press. Kezarovski had been serving the term under house arrest.

Kezarovski, a reporter for the national daily Nova Makedonija, had appealed an October 2013 verdict by a lower court which ordered him imprisoned for four and a half years on charges that he had revealed the identity of a protected witness in a 2005 murder case, according to news reports. A month after Kezarovski was imprisoned, he was transferred to house arrest.

He has repeatedly denied the charges.

The day after the appellate court’s verdict, Macedonian police took Kezarovski to jail, but later freed him and postponed the imprisonment by one month citing unspecified health reasons and a pending probation request, news reports said.

Kezarovski was initially arrested in May 2013 and sentenced to jail after five months, according to news reports. His conviction stemmed from his reporting in 2008 for the now-defunct independent weekly Reporter 92. Local journalists told CPJ that Kezarovski had criticized the Macedonian national security service (DBK) for pressuring and intimidating people into giving false testimony in criminal cases. At the time, Kezarovski also revealed the name of a witness in his article that criticized the police’s handling of a 2005 murder case.

But the witness that Kezarovski had named in his 2008 article did not have protected status at the time, according to news reports and local journalists. In February 2013, the witness told a court that he had received protected status in 2010. The witness also testified that he had been pressured by police to give fabricated evidence in the murder case, exactly as Kezarovski had reported. Upon his testimony, the imprisoned defendants in the murder case were released, news reports said.

“My articles revealed only breaches of justice procedures and criticized the works of the interior ministry and the justice system,” Agence France-Presse quoted Kezarovski as saying during his trial.

At the time of his arrest in May, Kezarovski was investigating the death of Nikola Mladenov, owner of the critical independent paper Fokus, in a car crash in March. On April 1, Kezarovski wrote an article, published in the daily paper Nova Makedonija, that raised questions about the police investigation into the crash and authorities’ treatment of the case as an accident. The circumstances of the crash also raised questions among Mladenov’s colleagues at Fokus.