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Slovak businessman found not guilty of ordering murder of investigative journalist

The court convicted another defendant guilty of taking part in the murder but did not find evidence the hit was ordered by businessman Marian Kocner, the main focus of the investigation. The killing of Kuciak, 27, and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova forced then-prime minister Fico to step down and ushered in a new government in March this year whose main election promise was to clean up corruption and sleaze.

Reuters | Bratislava | Updated: 03-09-2020 15:20 IST | Created: 03-09-2020 15:07 IST
Slovak businessman found not guilty of ordering murder of investigative journalist
Representative image. Image Credit: ANI

A Slovak court on Thursday found a politically connected businessman not guilty of charges that he ordered the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, a case that shook the nation and brought down longtime premier Robert Fico. The court convicted another defendant guilty of taking part in the murder but did not find evidence the hit was ordered by businessman Marian Kocner, the main focus of the investigation.

The killing of Kuciak, 27, and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova forced then-prime minister Fico to step down and ushered in a new government in March this year whose main election promise was to clean up corruption and sleaze. The couple were gunned down in their home outside Bratislava in February 2018, a killing that mirrored the murder in Malta four months earlier of another journalist investigating corruption, Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Bringing Kuciak's killers to justice has been a test of Slovakia's judicial and political system, long seen as susceptible to corruption. Prosecutors said Kocner, the subject of Kuciak's reporting on graft involving politically connected business people, had ordered the killing of the reporter. Kocner denied the charge.

The court also acquitted Kocner's acquaintance Alena Zsuzsova, who was accused with helping arrange the hit. "It was not proven that the deed was committed by Marian Kocner and Alena Zsuzsova," judge Ruzena Sabova said.

Families of the victims left the courtroom right after the verdict on Kocner as the judge kept reading details of the decision. The court sentenced another defendant, Tomas Szabo, to 25 years in prison for helping carry out the murder.

Two others have already been convicted in the case after admitting guilt. One of them, a former soldier, received 23 years in prison for killing Kuciak and his girlfriend, while a fifth suspect admitted to facilitating the murder and was given a 15-year sentence. The investigation has forced the resignation of several senior politicians and judicial officials on account of their previous links to Kocner.

Kocner, who is well known in Slovak business and political circles, has already received a 19-year sentence in a separate case after being convicted of forging 69 million euros in promissory notes. He has appealed that decision.


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