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‘Slovakia Has To Be a Country Where Corruption, Not Courage, Is Punished’

Tens of thousands of protesters ask for resignation of police and judiciary officials, riled by still-unsolved murder of investigative journalist.

16 April 2018

The turmoil that has gripped Slovakia since the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee at the end of February continues, with as many as 30,000 people taking to the streets of Bratislava yesterday to ask for the resignation of several high-ranking officials, Reuters writes. That number is roughly half of the size of protests that took place in March.

 

Those in the crowds reiterated calls for national police chief Tibor Gaspar to step down, which were also heard during protests earlier this month, according to another Reuters article.

 

Protest leaders have said Gaspar and the special prosecutor that they also want gone "have long overlooked corruption scandals reported by Kuciak and other investigative journalists." Karolina Farska, also an organizer, spoke about the need to make the country a place where “corruption, not courage, is punished.”

 

 

President Andrej Kiska has also repeatedly asked for Gaspar’s resignation, in an attempt to rebuild public trust, while Interior Minister Tomas Drucker said he would need weeks to assess Gaspar’s performance before coming to a conclusion.

 

Drucker replaced Robert Kalinak as head of the Ministry of Interior after the latter’s resignation last month. Kalinak had been the subject of stories published by Kuciak, who was working on an investigation into the infiltration of Italy’s feared ’Ndrangheta crime syndicate into eastern Slovakia at the time of his death.

 

Massive protests after the murder eventually led to the surprising resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico, who had dominated local politics for the past dozen years. “Though the crisis was triggered by the killing of Kuciak and Kusnirova, both 27, it exposed deep-seated frustration with Fico’s governing style, and cronyism in his party. Along with the deaths, Fico’s tone-deaf response further angered the public and brought frustrations over Smer’s politics to the surface,” The Economist wrote at the time.

 

Fico’s successor Peter Pellegrini said in an interview with The Guardian and five other European newspapers during a visit to Brussels that he “really strongly refutes the image of Slovakia as a country being run by the mafia, which is an image being spread by several individuals or groups of people.”

 

 

  • Pellegrini also said that his “first task is to rebuild the image of Slovakia,” a country that scores highly on security and press freedom. He added that the “very professional” way in which the murder was carried out made it difficult to investigate, although the local police have had assistance from the FBI, as well as British, Italian, and Dutch forces.

 

  • The revelations after Kuciak’s murder brought to attention the pervasiveness of corruption in Slovakia, Peter Kunder from the Fair-Play Alliance, a political watchdog NGO, told The Slovak Spectator. It’s no longer just isolated cases, he said, but about state capture and a wide-ranging abuse of power.
Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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