Slovakian court acquits businessman in retrial for journalist’s murder in 2018
PRAGUE — A Slovakian court acquitted for the second time a businessman accused of murdering an investigative journalist and his fiancee in 2018.
The Special Criminal Court in Pezinok, near the capital, Bratislava, which hears the most serious cases in Slovakia, ruled on Friday that Marian Kocner is not guilty of the murders of Jan Kuciak and 27-year-old Martina Kusnirova, who were previously written about.
The crime shocked the country and caused the government to fall.
According to the court, it was “not proven” that Kocner was the mastermind.
However, Kocner’s companion, Alena Zsuzsová, was convicted of her involvement in the murders and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The case is not over yet, the prosecution and the accused can appeal.
The prosecution requested a life sentence for both defendants.
The parents of Kuciak and Kusnirova left the courtroom before the verdict was read.
“There is no logic in it,” said the journalist’s father, Jozef Kuciak. “I don’t understand at all.”
“Of course we will appeal,” said Zlata Kusnirova, Martina’s mother. “What happened is impossible,” he said. “Shame on justice.”
Kuciak was shot in the chest and Kusnirová in the head in their home in Velka Maca, east of Bratislava, on February 21, 2018.
Prosecutors say Kocner threatened the journalist after she published a story about his business dealings. In total, Kuciak published nine stories about Kocner.
The killings sparked large-scale street protests in Czechoslovakia not seen since the anti-communist Velvet Revolution of 1989. The ensuing political crisis led to the collapse of the coalition government led by populist Prime Minister Robert Fico.
Kuciak was investigating possible government corruption when he was killed.
The court in Pezinok issued a verdict in the case for the second time.
He originally acquitted Kocner in September 2020, saying there was insufficient evidence for convictions. Prosecutors appealed.
The Slovak Supreme Court rejected the acquittal in June 2021, saying the lower court had not properly assessed the available evidence when it acquitted Kocner and Zsuzsová and ordered a retrial.
Three other accused were previously convicted and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment.
One of them, ex-soldier Miroslav Marcek, pleaded guilty to shooting Kuciak and Kusnirova and was sentenced to 23 years in prison in April 2020. Prosecutors say Kocner paid Marcek to carry out the murders.
Meanwhile, Kocner was sentenced to 19 years in prison in a separate forgery case, while Zsuzsova was sentenced to 21 years in prison for her role in the murder of a mayor.
These judgments are final.
In December 2019, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Kocner and six of his businesses due to Kuciak’s threats.