Police arrested Kezarovski, a critical reporter with the national daily Nova Makedonija, in his hometown of Veles, and charged him with revealing the identity of a witness in a 2005 murder case. Authorities claimed the witness’ identity was protected, although the witness himself has disputed the claim.
Kezarovski’s lawyer’s motions for his release pending trial were rejected. Kezarovski’s trial started in early August.
On October 21, 2013, the Skopje First Basic Court convicted Kezarovski and sentenced him to four and a half years in prison. The court would not release him while he appealed, according to news reports.
The conviction stemmed from Kezarovski’s coverage in 2008 of a 2005 murder case for the now-defunct independent weekly Reporter 92. Local journalists told CPJ that Kezarovski had criticized the Macedonian national security service for pressuring and intimidating people into giving false testimony in criminal cases. Kezarovski revealed the name of a witness in an article that criticized the way police handled a 2005 murder case.
But the witness that Kezarovski named 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 only 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 2013, Kezarovski was investigating the death of Nikola Mladenov, owner of the critical independent paper Fokus, in a car crash in March 2013. On April 1, 2013, Kezarovski wrote an article, published in the daily paper Nova Makedonija, which 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.
Local journalists have repeatedly organized rallies in Kezarovski’s support.