Jovanovic, the controversial publisher and editor-in-chief of the
opposition daily Dan (Day), was shot in a drive-by shooting
on the evening of May 27 while he was leaving his office in the Montenegrin
Unidentified assailants shot Jovanovic in the head and chest with
an automatic rifle as he was entering his car just after midnight.
Dan is closely tied to the Socialist People’s Party, which
supported former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic throughout
the 1990s. Jovanovic was head of the tax police in Milosevic’s government
during the 1990s.
In recent years, the newspaper has faced numerous lawsuits for criticizing
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, Jovanovic’s former political ally
from the 1990s. Both Dan and Jovanovic’s family reported that
the editor had received numerous death threats, and the newspaper’s
office in Podgorica was set on fire in April 2003.
Judge Radomir Ivanovic of the Podgorica High Court and police officers
initiated a murder investigation, according to local press reports.
Police said the murder was a top priority and called in German forensic
experts to assist in examining recovered evidence, including the weapon
and vehicle used in the killing, according to local press reports.
On June 9, police arrested Damir Mandic, a karate expert and organized
crime figure, as a suspect. Ten days later, Ivanovic began questioning
potential witnesses in the case.
In early September, the editor’s wife, Slavica Jovanovic, testified
before the court that the head of Montenegro’s State Security Service
(SDB), Dusko Markovic, had called her husband and threatened to kill
him in April 2003, according to Dan.
A lawyer representing the Jovanovic family asked the court to call
senior government officials–including Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic,
President Filip Vujanovic, and Markovic–for questioning, but the court
rejected the request, the Belgrade-based news agency Beta reported.
On October 2, prosecutors charged Mandic with murder, citing gunpowder
residue, a DNA analysis, and other evidence linking him to the Volkswagen
Golf 3 vehicle used in the crime, the independent Podgorica-based
weekly Monitor reported. The indictment refers to but does
not identify other individuals who were with Mandic at the time of
the shooting, according to local press reports.
While the indictment does not clarify the reason for the murder, the
only serious motive discussed in the local press has been Jovanovic’s
work for Dan exposing government abuses.
Mandic pleaded not guilty in November, saying he was framed, The Associated
Press reported. In
April 2009, Mandic was sentenced to 30 years in prison for being an accomplice
in Jovanovic’s murder.
A lawyer representing the Jovanovic family and Dan staff has
criticized the police investigation for failing to identify Mandic’s
accomplices; not identifying who ordered the killing; and not investigating
possible links between Mandic and Montenegrin government authorities.
Journalists and human rights activists have complained about the slow
progress of the police inquiry and have expressed concern that only
one suspect has been identified and is being charged for the crime.