Man charged with ordering murders of Slovakian journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée

Local reports suggest reporter had investigated suspect businessman

Tom Barnes
Friday 15 March 2019 16:49 GMT
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The death of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova sparked huge protests in Slovakia
The death of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova sparked huge protests in Slovakia

Police in Slovakia have charged a man with ordering the murder of an investigative reporter and his fiancée, in a case that triggered the resignation of the country’s prime minister.

Special prosecutors investigating the death of Jan Kuciak named the suspect only as Marian K during a televised news conference in Bratislava.

Newspapers Hospodarske Noviny and Dennik N, without citing sources, identified the man as politically connected businessman Marian Kocner, who had previously been a subject of Kuciak’s reporting.

At the time of his death, the 27-year-old had been investigating Mr Kocner’s business activities, as well as alleged links between Slovak politicians and the Italian Mafia.

Mr Kocner has previously denied having any connection to the Kuciak’s killing.

Months before his death, Kuciak told police the businessman had threatened to start collecting information on him and his family, but officers took no action at the time.

Prosecutors, who could not be identified and whose faces were hidden from television cameras, neither confirmed nor denied the two newspapers’ information during the news conference.

A lawyer for Mr Kocner, who is already in custody on unrelated charges of forgery, did not reply to requests for comment.

Police arrested four other people in September, including a woman identified only by her initials AZ, who was also charged with ordering Kuciak’s killing.

Media have identified her as Alena Zsuzsova. She has denied any wrongdoing.

One of the suspects has cooperated with investigators but his testimony was not the only thing that led to Thursday’s charges, prosecutors said.

“The motive for the murder was Kuciak’s work as a journalist. The investigator [has based the charge] on objective evidence that can’t be specified at the moment,” one said.

Ms Zsuzsova was never a target of Kuciak’s reportage but Slovak media have reported that she had business ties to Mr Kocner.

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Kuciak reported on fraud cases involving politically connected businessmen before he was found shot dead at home alongside his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, in February 2018.

The murders stoked public anger over perceived corruption in Slovakia, leading to the biggest protests since communism ended three decades earlier.

Amid that unrest, Robert Fico resigned as prime minister, a post he had held for 10 of the previous 12 years. His government has stayed in power but the ruling party has weakened in polls.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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