Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová was shocked by court’s decision to clear one of the country’s most powerful businessmen Marian Kočner of masterminding the murder of an investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, according to her official Instagram page.
“I respect the court’s decision, but I expect that the search for justice will continue at the supreme court,” Slovakian President wrote at her latest Instagram post.
Kuciak was investigating financial crimes in his home country, local links to international crime schemes and tax evasion exposed by the leaked Panama papers.
He had exposed the presence of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, one of the world’s most fearsome criminal groups, in Slovakia and business links between an alleged ‘Ndrangheta member and two senior government advisers.
Six months before his murder, Jan Kuciak received a phone call from Kočner.
“You are a bad person who is being tasked by someone, and I will find out who you’re working for. I’m going to take a special interest in you, your mother, your father and your siblings,” Marian Kočner said in the call, according to a transcript published by Aktuality.sk.
The shocking double murder of the young investigative journalist and his fiancee set off several criminal investigations and a political storm in Slovakia.
Tens of thousands of people around the country have gathered in biggest protest since the fall of Communism prompting series of high-profile resignations from the government.
Over the course of the seven-month-long trial, witnesses testified about political corruption and organised crime surrounding the businessman’s activity.
In March, Slovakian police arrested 13 judges believed to be Kočner’s insiders who protected him from prosecution for years.
A former soldier Miroslav Marček whom Kočner allegedly had paid €70,000 to carry out the killings, pleaded guilty to the shootings and was sentenced to 23 years in prison in April.
Another defendant who acted as a go-between testified that Kočner ordered the killings.
“I am not a saint, but I am not a murderer either. I’m certainly not a fool who wouldn’t realise what a journalist’s murder would lead to,” said Kočner in his closing speech during the trial in July.
The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, said on Twitter the verdict “shows that there is still work to do to ensure justice and prevent impunity.”
The parents of the murdered couple walked out of the courtroom before the reading of the sentence was over.
“I’m very disappointed – I expected more of our justice system,” said Jozef Kuciak, the murdered journalist’s father. “But we’re definitely not giving up,” he added.
The case is headed to the supreme court, which can uphold the ruling or order a new trial.
Image source: kafkadesk.org