Slovakia : RSF hails arrests of suspects of executing and ordering Kuciak murder
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the long-awaited breakthrough in the investigation into the 21 February murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée. Four people, including the suspected killer and a presumed instigator, were placed in pre-trial detention on Sunday following their arrests last Thursday and Friday.
A Slovak prosecutor who withheld his name for security reasons announced at a press conference in Bratislava on October 1 that a man identified as Tomáš Sz. has been detained on suspicion of carrying out the murder. A 44-year-old woman, Alena Zs., contracted the killing, according to the police, who indicated that others could be involved.
“This murder was carried out for 70,000 euros, of which 50,000 euros were paid in cash, the prosecutor said. He confirmed that four people were arrested, accused and then detained last week to prevent them from fleeing, pressuring witnesses or carrying out further illegal activity.
“We welcome this breakthrough in the Slovak police investigation into the deaths of Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová seven months after their murder,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“The prosecutor recognized that these arrests were speeded up because of the constant pressure from civil society. We ask that the investigation be pursued to the end in order to determine the motive for the murder and to identify any other persons involved in the chain of command.”
The daily Denník N and other Slovak media outlets reported that Alena Zs., who was arrested on 28 September in the city of Komárno in southern Slovakia, worked as an interpreter for Marián Kočner, a controversial Slovak businessman whose activities were covered by Kuciak on several occasions.
Asked whether Kočner was under suspicion, both the police and prosecutors declined to comment or to link Kočner with the murder. The newspaper Denník N also said he is the godfather of Alena Zs.’ child.
Accused of several crimes linked to his business activities, Kočner was arrested and placed in custody by the Slovak Supreme Court in in June 2018, especially for allegedly using forged promissory notes to demand 70 million euros from TV Markíza, Slovakia’s biggest commercial TV channel.
At the time of his murder, Kuciak had been investigating links between the Calabrian mafia and Slovak politicians, as well as high-level political corruption and large-scale tax fraud. His and his fiancée’s murder prompted the biggest protests since 1989 and led to government reshuffle.
Slovakia fell ten places in the 2018 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 27th out of 180 countries.