At a public session on Wednesday, a panel of the Slovenian higher court discussed the appeal lodged by the defence of Dr Milko Novič against the judgement of the first instance court that Novič was guilty of murdering Dr Janko Jamnik, the former director of the Slovenian National Institute of Chemistry. After the judge-rapporteur provided a report on the content of the judgement, the defence presented the content of the appeal and again confirmed what the public has known for a long time – that there was never any evidence for a sentence of 25 years in prison, but that the district court judge Špela Koleta still followed the indictment prepared by the public prosecutor Blanka Žgajnar even though it was only based on circumstantial evidence. The revelation in November that the Lebanese Dr Michel Stephan, who had ordered the murder of another employee of the Institute of Chemistry, Janez Plavec, is also in custody at Povšetova adds a new dimension to the story since on Thursday the defence managed to convince the court senate that the two cases might be connected, so the senate allowed files from the examination of witnesses from the secret investigation against Stephan to be read behind closed doors.
The higher court also agreed to a public hearing what would continue with an examination of Anton Jamnik, the father of the deceased Janko Jamnik. As was explained for Nova24TV by one of Novič’s lawyers Žiga Podobnik, it all seems as if the case of Stephan could lead to an acquittal of his client, who has been in custody for more than three years.
From the very beginning, the defence has pointed out (they did it again at the session of the higher court) that the first instance court wrongly evaluated the motive which Milko Novič supposedly had for murdering Jamnik. None of the witnesses confirmed that Novič had threatened anyone. And forensic tests by Germans confirmed that the particles found on Novič could not be directly and unambiguously linked with the particles found in the shell casing from the site of the murder. The National Forensic Laboratory, which did the analysis at the time, did not discover the existence of all three necessary basic elements in the case of even one GSR particle. The basic elements are the elementary composition, the spectrum, which confirms the analysis, and morphological photography.
Why did the Slovenian judiciary need so long to refute the forensic laboratory?
Novič’s lawyer, Jože Hribernik, has been pointing out for a while that at the time of the investigation the laboratory was not even accredited for such an analysis. But only after almost three years did the judge-rapporteur Stanka Živič manage to call the laboratory and confirm the matter. It turned out that the defence was right – the National Forensic Laboratory only received the aforementioned accreditation in July of this year which means that this evidence had been invalid all this time. And even though the public prosecutors Blanka Žgajnar and Bojana Podgorelec maintained that the judgement was a just one, the panel of the higher court decided on the basis of the newly established facts that it would also hold a main hearing, which already started on Wednesday at the consent from all parties.
Even though the lawyers did not want to talk about the contents of the files due to the confidentiality of the investigation in the Michel Stephan case, we have learned from trustworthy sources that years ago Dr Michel Stephan had tried to poison Janko Jamnik. Cyanide was found in the basement of the institute, which is why Jamnik, fearing for his life, dismissed the Lebanese and got a restraining order. Another interesting new information is that Stephan’s alibi in 2014, when Dr Janko Jamnik was murdered, was actually provided by one of his colleagues who had to leave the institute a few weeks ago after the Lebanese had been arrested. The Institute of Chemistry did not extend her contract. By the way, Barbara Mohar, who brought Stephan to Slovenia in 2001, has been on sick leave ever since her name started appearing in the press.
What will Anton Jamnik, the father of the victim, say to the court?
The defence therefore wants the Michel Stephan case to be included in the Milko Novič case. The higher prosecutor’s office will rule on this on Friday. On the same day, it will also examine a new witness proposed by the defence, the father of Janko Jamnik. The latter has wanted to testify in favour of Novič for a while now, while the mother of the victim has announced that she would visit Novič in prison. Jože Hribernik has also proposed questioning Jože Kobet from the Institute of Chemistry, who has been interrogated on Monday in the investigation of the planning of the murder, and Stanislav Pejovnik, the former director of the institute. The court decided that it would only question Anton Jamnika for now, and on the basis of new evidence, it would then decide whether it should call on anyone else to testify. However, the defence hopes that this will not happen and that Novič will already be a free man on Friday, and that he will be able to spend the coming Christmas holidays with his family.
Our sources also tell us that Gregor Vidmar, the former employee at the Institute of Chemistry who was actually the first person linked with the murder of Dr Jamnik, has been released a while ago. Only ten days before the murder in the parking lot in front of the Via Bona restaurant, Slovenian media reported that he had been making explosives for the Italian Mafia in the basement of the Institute of Chemistry. It seems Jamnik had suspected this as well as he reported him to the police.
International human rights observer is in Ljubljana and will closely follow Friday’s judgement
It is expected that the higher court will at least annul Špela Koleta’s judgement and remand the case for a hearing at first instance. Because he has been in custody for more than the permitted two years and a half, this would mean that Milko Novič would again defend himself as a free man. In addition to confirming Špela Koleta’s judgement (which is not a very realistic scenario based on the new evidence) the higher court could also acquit Novič, which should also happen in the opinion of the international human rights observer Michelle Laura Kling.
“I’ve been closely following the matter for the last year and a half. I can say that the whole dossier is reminiscent of a witch hunt. It worries me that Slovenia is becoming known around the world for courts that judge extremely unusually and that the rule of law does not apply. I hope everything turns out well in the Novič case, otherwise I’ll have to point out the injustice he’s been suffering to all relevant competent authorities in Europe,” Kling said for Nova24TV. A while ago, she had already reported on the Novič case to the United Nations.
Nova24TV will also closely follow the continuation of Friday’s main hearing.