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Prosecution demands 25 year prison sentence for masterminds in Jan Kuciak’s murder case

Journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were murdered in their home in Slovakia as he was investigating links connecting the alleged mastermind to corruption.

Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová memorial
Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova were murdered at their home in February 2018.

The prosecution in the case of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak has demanded a 25-year prison sentence for the three remaining defendants charged in the assassination.

Kuciak, a Slovak journalist, along with his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová, was shot and killed in their home in 2018, only four months after journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in Malta.

Proceedings in Slovakia have moved at a pace not seen in Malta, according to Reporters Without Borders spokesperson Pauline Adès-Mével who testified before the public inquiry on Friday.

Former soldier Miroslav Marček has already been convicted for carrying out the murder and was sentenced to 23 years in prison for the contract killing.

Businessman Marian Kočner, Alena Zsusova and former police officer Thomas Szabo are standing trial, accused of paying for the murder of the journalist. Kočner has already been jailed for fraud, forgery and securities crimes, and is serving a 19-year prison sentence.

This week, the prosecution presented its final arguments in court, saying that Kočner, Zsusova and Szabo’s guilt is “beyond doubt”.

The 27-year old Kuciak had been investigating Kočner, reporting on his shady businesses dealings and corruption. In the last story he published, Kuciak wrote about Kočner’s role in a VAT fraud scheme in which the businessman was allegedly selling apartments to himself for nominal fees.

Kuciak also reported on Kočner’s links to organised crime, as well as friends in politics, the police and the judiciary. These links were recently confirmed when, earlier in March, police in Slovakia arrested 18 individuals.

Thirteen of those arrested were judges, and all believed to be part of a network of judges, politicians and prosecutors who had accepted bribes from Kočner.

The murders of Kuciak and his fiancée, shot dead in their home in Bratislava, sparked large scale protests in 24 towns across Slovakia, as well as in 17 other cities throughout the world.

Prime Minister Robert Fico and his government had resigned after allegations surfaced that they were either negligent or complicit in the deaths. Two years later, the case remains an open wound in the country.

The Shift has been the subject of two lawsuits for reporting that Kočner’s daughter was married to Maltese Christian Ellul, who helped him set up two companies in Malta, one of which has since been closed. The couple has since divorced.

Ellul distanced himself from Kočner’s companies at the end of 2016. Investment Holdings Ltd has ceased operating, but the second – International Finance Group Ltd – remains active, although E&S Consultancy Ltd is no longer associated with them.

During the session on Thursday, the court in Slovakia rejected the defence lawyer’s request for a continuation to gather additional evidence and, instead, asked for closing arguments from the prosecution and defence.

The case is set to continue on 31 July, with verdicts to be pronounced on 5 August.

‘No major changes for journalists since Abela’ – Reporters Without Borders

Melvin Theuma Malta

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