Slovakia Press Freedom| Win Against Impunity

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The businessman, the hitman, the government: how one journalist’s murder changed Slovakia

The Mastermind
Marian Kocner, powerful businessman and subject of Jan Kuciak’s investigative reporting, stands accused of ordering the journalist’s murder. He denies the charge. A court in February 2020 separately sentenced Kocner to 19 years in prison for forging documents to siphon money from Slovak TV station Markiza.

The Victims
Jan Kuciak, 27, investigative journalist with Aktuality and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). Covered corruption, mafia incursions into Slovakia, and alleged wrongdoing by high-profile people including businessman Marian Kocner. The journalist and his fiancée were shot dead February 21, 2018.

Martina Kusnirova, 27, Jan Kuciak’s fiancée and an archeologist. The pair were planning their wedding in May 2018. Instead, Kusnirova is buried in her wedding dress. The triggerman said he killed her to avoid being identified after shooting Kuciak.

The Hitmen
Miroslav Marcek, 37, a former soldier, sentenced April 6, 2020 to 23 years in prison for the murders of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova. In court he described shooting the journalist once in the chest when he opened his door, then chasing down Kusnirova. Marcek admitted to the 2016 murder of a businessman as part of his confession in the Kuciak case.

Tomas Szabo, Marcek’s cousin, is a former police officer accused of preparing and carrying out the murders. The pair scouted the journalist’s home and village beforehand, the OCCRP reported. The weapon was a Luger 9mm pistol with a silencer. Szabo denies involvement.

The Middleman
Alena Zsuzsova, a former translator, is charged with acting as an intermediary and ordering the hit. She and businessman Kocner are close friends, OCCRP reported, and phone records show her communicating on his behalf. She denies being part of the murders.

The Witness
Zoltan Andrusko admits his involvement in the case and agrees to cooperate with prosecutors in return for a lesser sentence. In court Andrusko said he arranged the journalist’s murder at Kocner’s request and claimed Zsuzsova gave him €50,000 ($54,000) for the hitmen. Andrusko was sentenced to 15 years in December 2019. He faces separate charges for arranging the murders of two prosecutors and an attorney.

The Collateral Damage
Prime Minister Robert Fico and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak are forced to step down in March 2018 after weeks of mass protests over corruption and the double murder. National police chief Tibor Gaspar is forced to resign in April 2018. In March 2020, Police arrest 13 judges on charges of corruption and obstruction of justice, as part of Kocner’s murder trial.