Slovakia: First jail sentence handed down in journalist murder case | News | DW | 30.12.2019
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Slovakia: First jail sentence handed down in journalist murder case

A Slovak court has given a 15-year jail sentence to a man over his role in the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak. Five were charged in the case but four remain on trial.

A 42-year-old man received a 15-year jail sentence in a plea deal on Monday for facilitating the murder of Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak in 2018, a court spokeswoman said.

It was the first sentence so far handed down in the trial over the fatal shooting of Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, both aged 27, at their home near Bratislava. The case triggered mass protests over corruption in Slovakia, and Prime Minister Robert Fico was forced to resign.

The sentenced man, Zoltan Andrusko, would have faced life imprisonment if he had not confessed and acted as a witness. His 15-year sentence is longer than the 10 years he had agreed with prosecutors, as the court felt a longer prison term better served the cause of justice to all involved. Andrusko accepted the decision, the court said.

Read more: Murder of Jan Kuciak: What did Slovakia's government know?

Crowd at a protest marking a year since the death of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova (Getty Images/AFP/V. Simicek)

Many people in Bratislava marked the first anniversary of the killings with a protest

Judicial independence under scrutiny

Four other people are on trial over the killings, including a businessman whom Kuciak was investigating in the course of his work on connections between organized crime and politics in Slovakia. All of them have entered pleas of not guilty and face possible life sentences if convicted.

The case puts judicial independence in Slovakia to the test, with investigations bringing to light links between the businessman, Marian Kocner, and police and public officials. Prosecutors have accused Kocner of ordering the killing.

The main trial against the four remaining defendants is scheduled for early January.

Read more: Slovakia: After Jan Kuciak, killing journalists now 'within realm of possibility'

Watch video 02:38

Press freedom endangered in Slovakia, say journalists

tj (Reuters, dpa)

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