Published1 day ago
A businessman has been found innocent for a second time of masterminding a double murder that rocked Slovakia and brought down the prime minister.
While Marian Kocner was cleared, his associate Alena Zsuzsova was convicted.
The murders of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova stand out as unprecedented in modern Slovak history.
Kuciak, 27, had been covering alleged government corruption when the couple were shot dead at their home.
Shortly after they were murdered at Velka Maca near the capital Bratislava in February 2018, his final story was published.
It revealed the presence of notorious ‘Ndrangheta mobsters from Italy in Slovakia and alleged business links between a mafia member and two senior government advisers.
The shootings prompted the biggest protests since the fall of communism in 1989. They ultimately brought down nationalist Prime Minister Robert Fico and his government.
A former soldier called Miroslav Marcek was jailed after confessing to the attack. Two other men were convicted of acting as a driver and a go-between.
Marian Kocner was first found innocent in 2020 of being the mastermind behind the murder plot, while Zsuzsova was acquitted of being an accomplice. The Slovak supreme court then quashed the verdicts and ordered a retrial.
Both Kocner and Zsuzsova were already in jail for other crimes but had denied involvement in the murders of Jan Kuciak and his partner. Prosecutors sought 25 years in jail for both of them.
As part of the same trial the pair were also charged with planning to murder prosecutors Maros Zilinka and Petr Sufliarske.
The man convicted of acting as a go-between, Zoltan Andrusko, told their trial that Zsuzsova had told him the murder had been ordered by Kocner.
The panel of three judges found Zsuzsova guilty of involvement in both plots but Kocner was cleared of all charges. He is already serving 19 years in jail for unrelated fraud. She is entitled to appeal against the verdict.
Relatives of the murdered couple expressed their disbelief at Kocner’s second acquittal. They said Zsuzsova had no motive to order the killings on her own, and it had been proved that she was working directly for the businessman.
Slovakia is currently undergoing further political turbulence after Eduard Heger resigned this month as prime minister because he lost a vote of no confidence.
Although Robert Fico was forced to stand down as prime minister in the wake of the 2018 murders, his Smer party has since regained its popularity and he is eyeing a return to the top of Slovak politics.
He has been highly critical of sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine and recently targeted President Zuzana Caputova with false claims that she was a US agent, which she said prompted death threats against her family.