Acquittal for alleged mastermind behind murder of Slovak journalist

In Slovakia, the alleged mastermind behind the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak was acquitted. According to the court, there is insufficient evidence that businessman Marián Kocner ordered the murder of the journalist and his fiancée in 2018. Kocner was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

A co-accused, who according to the prosecutors helped set up the liquidation, was also acquitted. A third suspect was convicted of helping with the murder. He has to go to jail for 25 years. In April, the shooter was already sentenced to 23 years in jail and an accomplice was sentenced to 15 years.

The murder of Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova caused a shock in Slovakia two years ago. Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets; Prime Minister Fico and the highest police boss then resigned. The murder also played an important role in last year’s presidential elections. They were won by the lawyer and anti-corruption fighter Zuzana Caputová.

Articles about corruption and Kocner

As an investigative journalist Kuciak mainly focused on corruption in his country, says correspondent Wouter Zwart. “He wrote about the role of the mafia and links between criminals, the business world and politics, right down to the Prime Minister’s circles.”

The journalist devoted at least nine articles to Kocner, one of the most powerful businessmen in the country. According to the prosecutors, Kocner had threatened the investigative journalist several times. In 2017 Kuciak filed a complaint about this. According to him, the police did too little to protect him.

Family angry, OM on appeal

According to Wouter Zwart, Kocner’s acquittal was unexpected. “This comes as a surprise, because a lot of people thought there was a lot of evidence that he was the mastermind behind the murder.”

When it became clear that Kocner was not convicted, the parents of both victims immediately left the courtroom. “I can only say that this disgusts me,” said Joseph Kuciak, the journalist’s father, to the press.

In the meantime, the Slovakian Public Prosecutor’s Office has announced an appeal against Kocner’s acquittal. The businessman is now serving a 19-year prison sentence for a major corruption case.