'Murder' link to Slovak kidnap inquiry

As though an unresolved dispute about the kidnapping of the President's son were not enough, Slovakia has now been plunged into another controversy concerning the mysterious death of a former policemen who played a key role in the kidnap investigation.

Robert Remias, 26, died last month after his car burst into flames on the outskirts of Bratislava. Within hours of the incident, government officials insisted that it had been an accident. Opposition figures, however, cried foul play. And ever since, two parallel investigations have been under way, with each seeking to discredit the findings of the other.

Jan Carnogursky, leader of the opposition Christian Democrats, said he was convinced Remias had been murdered, claiming that the official autopsy revealed that a bullet had been found in the body of the victim.

Police investigators working on the official probe conceded that a piece of metal resembling a bullet had been found in the body - but they continued to deny the involvement of any third party.

Before his death, Ramias was the key link between the opposition and Oskar Fegyveres, a former Slovak Intelligence Service officer who claims the SIS had assisted in last year's kidnapping of Michal Kovac junior, the son of Slovak President, Michal Kovac.

Mr Kovac junior was kidnapped outside Bratislava last August, driven across the border with Austria and dumped.

The opposition maintains that the kidnapping was part of a feud between President Kovac and the Prime Minister, Vladimir Meciar. But investigators into the Kovac case discounted the testimony of Mr Fegyveres who, fearing for his safety, has gone into exile.

Given his link with the former SIS officer, the opposition says there was a political motive for getting rid of Ramias. Mr Meciar has slammed such assertions as unfounded.