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ICTY begins contempt trial of Croatian journalist

[JURIST] Defense lawyers argued that Croatian journalist Josip Jovic should not have been prosecuted for contempt as his trial began Tuesday at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; JURIST news archive] in The Hague. Jovic, editor of Slobodna Dalmacija [newspaper website, in Croatian], has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to contempt of court charges [indictment text] for violating an ICTY injunction against publishing the name of a protected witness in the Tihomir Blaskic case [ICTY case backgrounder]. While the prosecution described the contempt case as "egregious," Jovic's lawyers asserted that the witness - former Yugoslavian president and current Croatian President Stipe Mesic [official website, in Croatian; Wikipedia profile] - had already been identified in other media and should not have been allowed to testify anonymously because of his prominence as a political figure. Prosecutors responded that those mitigating factors could be considered at sentencing. If convicted, Jovic could receive to up to seven years in prison and be fined up to 100,000 euros (about $127,700 US).

The contempt trial was scheduled to begin on July 3, but it was postponed [ICTY press release] after Jovic failed to appear in court. ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [BBC profile], who must clear a massive caseload before her UN mandate expires in 2010, dropped contempt charges against three other journalists last month in the interests of "justice and judicial economy." AP has more.

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