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News 24 Jul 13

Macedonian Court Prolongs Detention of Journalist

A Macedonian court has again extended the detention of the journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, dismaying colleagues and supporters.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

In May journalists held protest over Kezarovski's arrest | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

After spending two months in detention, the Skopje criminal court on Wednesday ruled that the journalist should remain behind bars for another 30 days on the grounds that he might flee.

Kezarovski started a hunger strike in his cell in Skopje’s Shutka prison on Monday, trying to bring attention to the fact that the wider investigation in his case has already ended, so the court can no longer claim that he needs to remain behind bars because “he might influence other witnesses”.

His family has already submitted a guarantee in real estate that he will not attempt to escape the country if released.

“We are all shocked. This shames Macedonia, the judiciary, prosecution, government, politicians, all of us,” Zaneta Trajkovska, member of the initiative board for Kezarovski’s release, said.

The board is made up of leading Macedonian journalists’ associations, which say they are increasingly worried about Kezarovski’s health.

Margarita Tsatsa-Nikolovska, a former Supreme Court judge and former judge for the European Court for Human Rights, said his continued detention was suspicious.

“If he can be kept under house arrest, why keep him in detention? Is the intention to intimidate him? ” Tsatsa-Nikolovska told Radio Free Europe. By “all international standards, detention should be used [only] as a last resort”, the judge added.

Police detained the investigative journalist from the Nova Makedonija daily newspaper in May in relation to an article he wrote in 2008 for Reporter 92 magazine in which he revealed the identity of a witness in an unresolved murder case.

Kezarovski has been held in custody since then, despite calls by all the main journalists’ associations in the country for his immediate release.

In a joint statement issued on Monday, the Macedonian Journalists Association, ZNM, the Trade Union of Macedonian Journalists and Media Workers, SSNM, and the Macedonian Institute for Media, MIM, expressed “deep concern” for what they called Kezarovski’s “fragile physical and mental” state.

They said that his hunger strike “raised the alarm”. If he was not immediately released, “responsibility for the condition of the journalist will fall on the judicial and executive authorities,” they added.

Earlier this month, Macedonia's ombudsman received complaints from the journalist that he had been ill-treated in Shutka prison. He said he had been deprived of prescribed open-air exercise and was not allowed to receive daily newspapers, which he pays for.

Brussels has said that it is following the case.

The OSCE, the Association of European Journalists and the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders have all condemned the arrest, calling for Kezarovski's release.

The Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe, N-OST, the network for supporting investigative journalism, SCOOP, and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, have also launched a joint campaign for his release.

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