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Slovakia: Thousands demand police chief resign

April 16, 2018

Thousands of Slovaks have taken to the streets of Bratislava calling for the resignation of the police chief. Protesters claim he cannot conduct a fair investigation of the murder of a journalist probing corruption.

Protesters in Slovakia
Image: Getty Images/AFP/V. Simicek

Tens of thousands of Slovaks rallied in the capital of Bratislava on Sunday demanding the resignation of the national police chief, Tibor Gaspar. Protests have been continuing for months. 

Protesters claim that Gaspar's political connections prevent him from conducting a fair investigation into the murder of a journalist who was probing corruption.

Jan Kuciak, 27,and his fiance were found murdered in their home in February. Kuciak had been probing alleged ties between top politicians and the Italian mafia. His death has sparked near-weekly protests — the biggest since the end of communism in 1989.

Interior Minister Tomas Drucker was expected to announce in the coming week whether he will remove Gaspar.

Protests in Slovakia
The series of protests are the biggest since the fall of communism in 1989Image: Getty Images/AFP/V. Simicek

Protesters also waved banners calling for early elections and "Enough of Smer!," a reference to the governing social democrats.

Last month, after growing pressure, long-serving prime minister Robert Fico stepped down to save his three-party government, and chose his deputy, Peter Pellegrini, to lead a reshuffled cabinet.

The new government appointed last month retains most of the same people from the previous. Analysts believe Fico will continue to call the shots from behind the scenes as he remains chairman of the governing Smer-SD party.

Corruption hinders economy in Slovakia

No prosecutions

Local Slovak news website Dennik N estimated that Sunday's protest drew around 30,000 people in the capital Bratislava, about half the size of the biggest protests last month. Demonstrators also want the special prosecutor Dusan Kovacik to step down.

Kovacik is responsible for prosecuting abuse of power and corruption among public servants and politicians. According to data from his office last year, he has overseen 61 cases between 2009-2017.

No senior politician has gone to prison for corruption in that time, according to Transparency International. In fact Kovacik has not pressed criminal charges against any of them. About 48 percent of bribe cases that are dealt with by courts involved amounts of less than €100 ($125).

av/aw (AP, AFP, DPA)

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