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Slovak court acquits businessman of journalist's murder

May 19, 2023

Businessman Marian Kocner was believed to behind the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak but a court in Slovakia has acquitted him for a second time. However it handed a 25-year sentence to another defendant.

heavily armed members of Prison Service bring Marian Kocner into a courtroom ahead of his trial in 2020 in Pezinok, Slovakia
Marian Kocner during an earlier court appearanceImage: Václav Šálek/CTK/dpa

A court in Slovakia has again cleared businessman Marian Kocner of ordering the killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee in 2018.

Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova were gunned down in their home outside Bratislava in 2018.

The court had reached the same verdict in 2020citing a lack of evidence, but the country's Supreme Court later ordered a fresh trial. 

On Friday, the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok again cleared Kocner of ordering the murder. The court however convicted Alena Zsuzsova for her role in the killings and sentenced her to 25 years in prison. 

The new verdict can again be appealed.

Families walked out of the court in protest

Maja Severm the president of the European Federation of Journalists said Kuciak and Kusnirova's families left the court in tears. 

"I absolutely don't understand this. Zsuzsova found guilty, Kocner innocent," Kuciak's father, Jozef Kuciak, told reporters outside the court in comments broadcast by SME newspaper's website.

"Of course, we'll appeal," Zlata Kusnirova, Kusnirova's mother said. "It's impossible what happened," she said. "It's a shame for justice."

Kuciak had been investigating graft involving politically connected entrepreneurs when he was killed.

Prosecutors claimed Kocner ordered the killing as he was the subject of Kuciak's articles. Kocner had always denied any involvement.

The actual killer admitted to the crime in 2020 and was sentenced to 23 years in jail in April. The Supreme Court later added two years to Miroslav Marcek's sentence.

Two other individuals were found guilty for their roles, with one receiving a 25-year prison sentence in September 2019, and another, a go-between, receiving a smaller 15-year sentence in exchange for his cooperation with investigators in December 2019.

lo/msh (Reuters, AP)