Three of four defendants accused of firebombing the house of Žig Info portal journalist Milan Jovanović were sentenced to 12.5 years in prison according to the first-instance verdict brought in December 2018.
Judge Slavko Žugić, who led the proceedings for almost two years, sentenced Dragoljub Simonović, a former president of the Belgrade municipality of Grocka and an official of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, to four years and three months in prison, as well as condemning Vladimir Mihailović to four years in prison and Aleksandar Marinković to four years and three months.
The case against a fourth defendant, Igor Novaković, was recently separated in order to avoid the obstruction imposed by his lawyer. He will be sentenced at a later date.
The prosecutor announced the lodging of an appeal in response to the defendants having received more lenient sentences than those he sought from the court, while the convicted defendants also announced that they will launch appeals.
Ivana Stevanović, executive director of the Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation, assessed these first-instance verdicts in the case of the arson attack on Jovanović’s house as being “very good news for journalists in Serbia, as well as for the judicial system”. She did emphasize, however, that the sentences were more lenient “than we expected and than the prosecutor sought” and that she believed that “high sentences would have represented a slightly stronger message and provided a slightly stronger sense of security for all journalists who work under great pressure in Serbia”.
Alongside domestic media and journalists associations, the verdict was also welcomed by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RWB/RSF), and the International Press Institute (IPI).
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