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Montenegrin NGO, Journalist Get Positive Court Results Ahead Of EU Report

Journalist Petar Komnenic - fines against him were dropped and a retrial ordered by a Montenegrin court.
Journalist Petar Komnenic - fines against him were dropped and a retrial ordered by a Montenegrin court.
PODGORICA -- A Montenegrin journalist and a nongovernmental organization have received favorable court decisions in heavily-criticized cases just days ahead of the European Commission's November 9 report on Montenegro's application to become a candidate for membership in the bloc, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports.

On November 5, Vijesti television station journalist and RFE/RL correspondent Petar Komnenic had his libel conviction overturned by Podgorica's Higher Court.

The case was filed by a controversial businessman.

Komnenic was originally found guilty and ordered to pay the businessman 2,000 euros ($2,800) in compensation. The Higher Court dismissed the conviction and the fine and ordered a retrial.

On November 8, a Podgorica district court dismissed charges against the NGO Network for the Affirmation of the Nongovernmental Sector (MANS). The case was filed by the Niksic steel mill after MANS alleged that the Dutch-registered owner of the steel works had created a shareholding web in order to launder money and siphon off profits from the company.

The cases against Komnenic and MANS had been heavily criticized by rights groups as violating press freedoms.

Stanko Marica, president of the Montenegrin lawyers' association Senate, said the two decisions by the court in favor of the defendants "could have been linked to the upcoming opinion of the European Union."

"It is also possible, which I would like to be the case, that the Montenegrin courts have finally realized that they simply have to apply European standards [to court cases] and adhere to EU conventions," Maric said.

The Eurpean Commission has issued progress reports on nine Balkan countries hoping to become candidates for European Union membership. The commission recommended that Montenegro be given candidate status in "recognition of its achievements." It said that decision "reflects our position that progress should yield tangible results on the road toward accession."