BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – Slovak police have detained people suspected of the murder of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Slovak media outlets reported on Thursday, citing police sources.
FILE PHOTO: Candles are seen in front of the Government of the Slovak Republic’s building during march in honour of murdered Slovak investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova in Bratislava, Slovakia, March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa
The news was confirmed by a lawyer for the family of Kuciak, whose killing seven months ago rocked the central European country, stoking anger over public corruption and sparking the biggest street protests since the fall of communism in 1989.
“In the early morning hours today police detained suspects in the premeditated murder of Jan Kuciak and (his fiancée) Martina Kusnirova,” lawyer Daniel Lipsic said on Facebook.
He told Reuters by text message that he had been briefed by prosecutors. It was not immediately clear how many people were being held.
The police force said earlier on its Facebook page it had detained persons suspected of violent crime and was carrying out home searches but did not say in which case. A spokesman declined to comment further.
Media, including the websites of SME daily and Aktuality.sk, where Kuciak had worked, reported police were carrying out home searches in the south of the country.
Kuciak had, among other things, investigated fraud cases involving businessmen with Slovak political ties. He had also looked into suspected mafia links between Italy and businesses in Slovakia.
He was found shot dead along with Kusnirova at their home outside Bratislava in February. They were both 27.
Weeks of public protests eventually forced the departure of long-serving prime minister Robert Fico and his interior minister Robert Kalinak as well as previous police chief Tibor Gaspar.
However, Fico’s three-party government coalition remained in power under Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, who comes from the ruling Smer party which Fico still leads.
Pellegrini welcomed news of the detentions in a social media post on Thursday. A spokeswoman said the prime minister had no official information on the police action.
“The investigation and punishment of those guilty of this murder is one of the priorities of my government,” Pellegrini wrote.
(The story corrects the day of the PM’s post to Thursday not Wednesday in the penultimate paragraph)
Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Toby Chopra and Hugh Lawson