Fico under fire over journalist murder
Tens of thousands of protesters in Bratislava have marked the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend. The 27-year-old was working on a story about the influence of the Italian mafia in Slovakia.
Their bodies were found last Sunday in their home in Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava.
President Andrej Kiska asked a crowd estimated at 20,000 to observe a minute’s silence amid allegations that the government was involved.
“There is a dirty mess all around here… and we common people have to put up with it,” said protester Jozef Belovic, 58.
Kuciak reported on tax and subsidy fraud and links between murky businesses and Slovak politicians.
Around 25 similar marches were held across the country and in London, Paris and Brussels.
Banners read “I am angry,” ”Mafia: get out of my country” and “An attack on journalists=an attack on us all.”
Kuciak murder was the first documented killing of a journalist in Slovakia and the fifth such case in the EU in the past 10 years, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Some protesters urged Prime Minister Robert Fico’s government to resign. Fico, who has dominated Slovak politics for a decade, currently leads a fragile, three-party coalition government.
Fico once referred to journalists as “dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes” but has offered a €1-million reward for information aiding the murder investigation.
A mafia buster said Italian prosecutors had warned Slovakia about “dangerous” infiltration by a powerful Italian organised crime groups before Kuciak was shot dead.
Roberti said the ‘ndrangheta might have killed Kuciak because “there was no other way to silence” him.
He added that Slovak corruption played a major role in the ‘ndrangheta overseas expansion.
“We warned authorities in Bratislava, but unfortunately they didn’t heed us” on the ‘ndrangheta’s expansion into Slovakia, said Franco Roberti, Italy’s national anti-mafia prosecutor.
Slovak national police chief Tibor Gaspar denies the allegation.
“According to my information, it’s not true,” the police chief said.
Police raids on houses linked to the alleged members of the organisation in connection with the murders led to seven detentions in the Slovak towns of Michalovce and Trebisov. They reportedly matched subjects who Kuciak referred to in his final article.
Among those held was Antonino Vadala, an Italian who did business with at least two figures close to Fico. Three Slovak government employees have resigned since the murders.
The FBI, British, Czech and Italian police and Europol, are helping the Slovak authorities with investigations.
Bratislava’s protest yesterday. Picture credit: YouTube