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News 16 Sep 13

Macedonian NGO Doubts Verdict on Journalist’s Death

Transparency Macedonia says in its latest report that the authorities have failed to answer important questions about the journalist Nikola Mladenov's fatal car crash.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Nikola Mladenov | Photo by: Fokus

In its latest report on July-August, Transparency Macedonia says the official investigation into the death of Mladenov failed to explain key details, increasing doubts about what really happened.

Mladenov, a pioneer of free speech in Macedonia, died on March 27 when his car overturned in a ditch near the highway at the entrance to Skopje.

In July, after reviewing the evidence, the authorities declared his death an accident and said no further investigation was necessary.

The official investigation concluded that Mladenov died as a result of a violent injury to his aorta and that at the time of the accident his vehicle was travelling at 160kph. No trace of alcohol or drugs was found in his body.

But Transparency Macedonia says that the investigation failed to explain where Mladenov was in the hours before his death, whom he was then in contact with, where his cell phone is and why his car was not subjected to forensic examination.

“To stage a press conference with the police minister, the state prosecutor, the Skopje prosecutor and the head of the criminal court, all present at the same table… and not answer these questions is utterly unacceptable,” the organisation says in its report.

Transparency Macedonia adds that it also doubts the official investigation's assertion that all the cameras on the Veles-Skopje highway at the time of the accident were offline, and that his cell phone could not be found.

Mladenov founded and co-owned Macedonia's oldest political weekly, Fokus, formed in 1995.

The newspaper reflected his own critical views of the government of Nikola Gruevski. Soon after Mladenov’s death, the weekly closed, although its team recently announced a relaunch.

After the tragedy, the daily Nova Makedonija said it had uncovered evidence that the official investigation had missed. Among the finds, picked up from the site of the crash, were four road toll receipts that the newspaper said might prove crucial to filling in blanks.


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