A Slovak businessman and three others appeared in court for the first time on Thursday to face charges over the murder of an investigative journalist and his fiancée , a case that triggered mass protests against corruption.
Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova , both 27 , were gunned down in their house outside the capital Bratislava in 2018.
As she arrived in court , Zlatica Kusnirova ’ s mother demanded that Kuciak ’ s unfinished investigations be resolved.
Prosecutors say entrepreneur Marian Kocner , a subject of Kuciak’ s reporting on fraud cases involving politically -connected businessmen , had contracted his killing .
The murders stoked public anger over perceived corruption in Slovakia , forcing Prime Minister Robert to resign .
His Smer party will face a tight election on February 29.
The case is a test of Slovak police and judicial independence given that the investigation exposed business and personal links between Kocner , the police , and public officials.
“ We will be satisfied only when all the cases Kuciak wrote about are solved.
“ Then their deaths will make at least some sense.
“ It’ s not enough to convict the murderers , ” Kusnirova ’ s mother told newsmen as she entered the Special Criminal Court in Pezinok near the capital Bratislava.
At Thursday ’ s hearing, judges will either set the date for the trial or ask prosecutors to submit more evidence.
At the start of the hearing , the prosecutor and all defendants – including two men who allegedly carried out the murder and a woman accused of being an intermediary said no when asked by the judge if they wanted a deal for a reduced sentence in exchange for a confession.
Alena Zsuzsova, who prosecutors say was an intermediary , said : “ I am not interested, I am innocent . ”
They will all face up to life in prison if convicted .
The court may impose a reduced sentence if they confess during the main trial.
Slovak media and Kuciak’ s family lawyer have said one the defendants had admitted during the investigation to be the shooter.
A fifth man has confessed to facilitating the killing and has made a plea deal with prosecutors to act as a witness .
Prosecutors said in August they had extracted tens of thousands of messages from Kocner ’ s phone containing communication with “representatives of state bodies and the justice system ” .
The revelations caused several senior officials to resign .
Slovakia ’ s former chief prosecutor was charged with abuse of power in a case also involving Kocner .
( Reuters /NAN via Punch )