New trial on Slovakian journalist’s murder thanks to new evidence

(FILE) A file picture taken in front of the Saudi Consulate in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, west of Paris on October 1, 2019 shows dummies with press armbands and jacket piled up by Reporters without borders (RSF) members during a protest to mark the one year of the death of Jamal Khashoggi. - The annual report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on April 19, 2021 that journalism was at least partly blocked in nearly three-quarters of the 180 countries surveyed. Its World Press Freedom Index found 73 countries "totally blocked or seriously impeded" journalism, while it was "constrained" in 59 others, adding that many governments had used the pandemic to worsen repression. (Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP) Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP/dpa

New evidence presented by prosecutors convinced Slovakia’s highest court on Tuesday to overturn the acquittal of a millionaire in the case of a murdered journalist that sparked outrage in the country.

Entrepreneur Marion Kocner and an accomplice will now face retrial in a lower court, after prosecutors submitted new evidence, including transcripts of text messages, the country’s top court ruled.

Investigative journalist Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova, both 27, were shot dead in their home in the village of Velka Maca in February 2018.

Kuciak had been reporting on Kocner’s business dealings, as well as other corruption allegations. A report published only after the journalist’s death triggered mass demonstrations and led to the resignation of the government at the time.

Kocner, a millionaire, was eventually charged with orchestrating and paying for Kuciak’s murder. In September 2020, an accomplice was convicted but Kocner and another suspected accomplice were acquitted for lack of evidence.

The verdict sparked outrage.

The confessed shooter, Miroslav Marcek, had already been convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison in a separate trial. Another accomplice who provided important information as a key witness was handed a 15-year sentence.

Kocner has routinely denied all the charges. He is currently serving a 19-year sentence because he was found guilty in another case, involving falsification of payments.

Czech journalist Pavla Holcova, who worked with Kuciak, said she now hopes for justice.

“This could bring a new dynamic to the case,” she told broadcaster TA3.

The victims’ parents also said they hope the new case will provide some closure.

“We are going to take our pain to the grave, said Zlatica Kusnirova, Martina’s mother. “Everyone who has children will understand that.”

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