Slovakia: Alleged hitman pleads guilty to murdering Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová

This statement was originally published on ipi.media on 13 January 2020.

An alleged hitman pled guilty today in a Slovak court to murdering journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová in February 2018.

Miroslav Marček, a former solider, testified that he shot Kuciak on February 21, 2018 at the home he and Kušnírová shared in Velka Maca. He said that he then killed Kušnírová – apparently unplanned – after she saw his face, chasing her into the kitchen and shooting her in the head.

The admission came on the first day of the long-awaited trial against four suspects in the murder case, which rocked Slovakia, prompting the country’s largest protests since the Velvet Revolution and forcing out former Prime Minister Robert Fico. The International Press Institute (IPI) is attending the trial as an observer.

In addition to Marček, the suspects on trial are Tomáš Szabó, Marček’s cousin and the alleged getaway driver; Alena Zsuzsová, a suspected middlewoman; and Marian Kočner, a well-known businessman charged with ordering Kuciak’s killing as retaliation for his journalistic work.

A fifth suspect, Zoltán Andruskó, had previously pled guilty for his role in the crime and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in December. Prosecutors say that Andruskó, working on behalf of Zsuzsová and ultimately Kočner, tasked Szabó and Marček with carrying out the murder.

Marček confirmed Andruskó’s role but said he was not made aware of the identity of the mastermind. Asked by the court why Andruskó sought Kuciak’s murder, Marček testifed: “He only said that he was writing about something he shouldn’t be writing about.”

Day 1 Summary

• Presiding judge Ružena Sabová opened proceedings, reminding defendants of their rights and international observers of courtroom rules. Around 100 journalists are accredited for the trial.
• Prosecutors laid out their case, charging the defendants with premeditated murder, trading and possession of illegal weapons and home invasion. Lawyers for the defence rejected the prosecutors’ claims, challenging the indictment as insufficient and “contradictory”, attacking the credibility of prosecution witness Andruskó and hitting out at the media coverage of the killing.
• The suspects then entered pleas: Zsuzsová not guily; Szabó statement declined; Marček guilty; and Kočner guilty of illegal weapons possession only.
• Marček delivered his testimony, beginning by apologizing to the victims’ families, prompting tears from them. When asked whether he took measures not to kill anyone else besides Kuciak, the intended target, he told the court: “I waited until she (Kušnírová) went to the bathroom and hoped she would stay there. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
• Marček also said that he and Szabó originally planned to kidnap Kuciak and then kill him. They abandoned the plan, Marček said, after deeming it unrealistic as they were likely to be seen.
• Zsuzsová also took the stand, rejecting any responsibility for the murder. She said she did not know Szabó or Marček and that she never asked Andruskó to commit a murder. She disputed that Kočner paid her to arrange the killing.
• Kočner himself testified, admitting guilt related to the weapons charges, but declined further comment. He said he only knew Zsuzsová among the defendants.

The post Slovakia: Alleged hitman pleads guilty to murdering Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová appeared first on IFEX.

Source: MEDIA FEED

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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