- Title: Trial over Slovak journalist's murder puts justice system to test
- Date: 18th December 2019
- Summary: BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA (DECEMBER 18, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MEMORIAL TO INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST JAN KUCIAK AND HIS FIANCEE MARTINA KUSNIROVA, WHO WERE MURDERED IN FEBRUARY 2018 EDITORS OF AKTUALITY.SK WEBSITE, WHERE KUCIAK PUBLISHED ARTICLES, MEETING, BANNERS WITH SLOGAN READING (English): "#ALL FOR JAN" IN BACKGROUND EDITOR AT AKTUALITY.SK AND KUCIAK'S COLLEAGUE AND MENTOR MAREK VAGOVIC (LEFT) SITTING DURING MEETING BANNER WITH SLOGAN READING (English): "#ALL FOR JAN" (SOUNDBITE) (Slovak) KUCIAK'S MENTOR AND COLLEAGUE, MAREK VAGOVIC, SAYING: "Jan Kuciak was unique because he was able to find the 'needle in the haystack'. He was able to find such details from different sources which even those involved in the cases did not know they were hiding, including Marian Kocner (ed's note: one of four people charged with Kuciak's murder) and he was able to connect them in logical contexts." VARIOUS OF JOURNALISTS AT WORK IN AKTUALITY.SK'S NEWSROOM (SOUNDBITE) (Slovak) KUCIAK'S MENTOR AND COLLEAGUE, MAREK VAGOVIC, SAYING: "Jan Kuciak was dangerous mainly for people like Marian Kocner because he found all their firms they did not even declare, 'white horses', he was describing the transactions they used to commit their frauds. Jan Kuciak wrote 23 articles during the year 2017 and these were not trivialities but cases leading to many criminal investigations. Jan Kuciak writing this endangered his (Kocner's) property. I tried to calculate this and it is around 100 million euros ($111 million approx.) which Kocner lost due to Kuciak's articles. There was enormous reason (for Kocner) to be nervous because he was losing his air of impunity and property." CHRISTMAS TREE IN NEWSROOM VARIOUS OF JOURNALISTS AT WORK (SOUNDBITE) (Slovak) KUCIAK'S MENTOR AND COLLEAGUE, MAREK VAGOVIC, SAYING: "This is a precedent. There has never been a murder of a journalist for their work in Slovakia since independence (in 1993). The case has huge political context and the work of the police or prosecutor is being closely watched, how they will handle the evidence. We all are looking forward to see if there will a successful conviction not only of the perpetrators but also those who ordered the murder. This criminal case cannot remain unpunished because it had a serious impact on the country and it is also something like catharsis which can move our country on." RECEPTION DESK OF AKTUALITY.SK BADGES READING (English): "#ALL FOR JAN" EXTERIOR OF AKTUALITY.SK'S OFFICE BUILDING
- Embargoed: 1st January 2020 18:08
- Keywords: Jan Kuciak Marian Kocner Martina Kusnirova Slovak businessman four on trial journalist and fiancee murdered
- Location: BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA
- City: BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA
- Country: Slovakia
- Topics: Crime/Law/Justice,Judicial Process/Court Cases/Court Decisions
- Reuters ID: LVA001BAI7WVT
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A trial opens on Thursday (December 19) of a businessman and three others charged over the murder of an investigative journalist and his fiancee, in what is seen as a test of Slovakia's judicial and political system ahead of an election in February.
The February 2018 murder of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova prompted mass demonstrations against corruption that forced the resignation of then prime minister Robert Fico. The case has dominated Slovakia's civic life since.
Kuciak, 27, and Kusnirova were gunned down in their house outside the capital Bratislava. The killing echoed the murder four months earlier of another journalist investigating corruption in an EU country, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in Malta.
Prosecutors say entrepreneur Marian Kocner, the subject of Kuciak's reporting on corruption, had contracted his killing.
Kocner and two alleged accomplices have pleaded not guilty while the fourth suspect has confessed to the shooting, according to public television RTVS, quoting police sources. They face up to life in prison if convicted.
Marek Vagovic, Kuciak's mentor and an editor at the Aktuality.sk news website, said articles by Kuciak into corruption had led to criminal investigations, and he was seen as a threat by the subjects of his research, including Kocner.
Vagovic added that the case was unique in Slovak history since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, and offered the chance for "catharsis" and for the country to move forward.
At the Thursday preliminary hearing, judges will either set the date for the main hearing or ask prosecutors for additional evidence.
Prime Minister Fico was replaced by a party ally last year and his leftist, socially conservative Smer party still leads the government as it has for 11 out of the past 13 years.
It has seen a slide in support but still tops opinion polls, although a wide group of opposition parties could edge it out of power in the Feb. 29 election.
(Production: Jiri Skacel, Lewis Macdonald)
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