Democracy Digest: New NGO Laws Raise Concern in Hungary, Poland
New evidence emerges in journalist murder trial; Slovakia on the red list; no peace for a struggling coalition
The Slovak Supreme Court has announced that it will deliver its decision on the prosecution appeal against the not guilty verdicts in the murder trial of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak at a public hearing on June 15.
Buddy businessman Marian Kocner, the alleged mastermind behind the murder who is already serving time after being convicted of fraud, and his alleged partner in the crime, Alena Zsuzsova, have been found not guilty by the special criminal court last year on the grounds of lack of evidence. Tomas Szabo was sentenced to 25 years in prison for complicity in the murder of Kuciak, 27, and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova.
The decision, followed closely both at home and abroad, sparked controversy and drew criticism from several prominent Slovak lawyers.
The Supreme Court is now expected to either uphold the verdicts or overturn the decision of the special criminal court and send the case back for a new trial. He could also take a piecemeal approach, i.e. asserting or even extending Szabo’s sentence while overturning Kocner and Zsuzsova’s not-guilty status. Either way, the Supreme Court will not be able to convict the two defendants without a new trial.
Observers say retrial for Kocner and Zsuzsova most likely outcome after revelations from the daily Dennik N..
While this verdict is not final and its appeal to the Supreme Court is pending, it revealed stark similarities between the roles Zsuzsova played in facilitating the two politically motivated murders in eight years.
Still, doubts remain about the composition of the Supreme Court Senate that considered the prosecution’s appeal in the Kuciak trial. Two of the three judges had been mentioned in private communications linked to corruption scandals in the justice system – even by Kocner himself. Despite these question marks, the Senate remains impartial, said President Peter Paluda.
Meanwhile, Slovakia’s vaccination campaign hit another stumbling block as chaos engulfed the issuance of vaccination certificates for those who received their full doses of COVID-19 shots.
Unlike neighboring countries, Slovakia has not yet implemented a uniform system that would produce standardized documents. Instead, patients found themselves searching for documents that would allow them to cross borders as Europe slowly reopens in the wake of the receding pandemic.
General practitioners said they were unable to provide the certificates and referred patients to vaccination centers. These in turn argued that they did not have the capacity to issue the documents. Patients in a hurry had no choice but to pay the Private Institute for Vaccination and Travel Medicine which issues standardized documents across Europe, the SME daily reported.
But the lack of consistency has led countries like the Czech Republic and Belgium to drop Slovakia from their list of free and safe travel zones, putting the country on their red list instead. Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok admitted this was a problem, but did not specify a timeline for a system to be put in place.
Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky later confirmed that “temporary” certificates in Slovak and English recognized abroad would be available from the end of the week, as officials rushed to launch an application. and an electronic system that would streamline their issuance.
The provisional documents will be replaced by the standard European certificate as soon as they become available on June 26, added the minister. Opposition party SMER-SD has threatened to launch a vote of confidence in an attempt to fire Lengvarsky if the case is not resolved by next Monday.
Elsewhere, another conflict between Finance Minister Igor Matovic and his perennial enemy, Economy Minister Richard Sulik, has arisen after Sulik’s public criticism of Matovic’s proposed increase in the budget deficit of 3.4 billion dollars. ‘euros. “We are the party of fiscal responsibility,” Sulik said, mocking Matovic’s approach for his alleged incompetence.
Recent studies show that Slovakia will have one of the fastest aging populations and experience the largest increase in public spending related to the elderly by 2070 among any EU country, which will put a huge strain on an economy already tense.
But Matovic, the former prime minister, does not take the search for faults kindly and accused Sulik of trying to break the fledgling government of Prime Minister Eduard Heger and blamed Sulik for the fall of his own coalition in March. He added that Sulik’s criticism was nothing more than “populist gossip” and called his SaS party “a destroyer of governments”.
Prime Minister Heger suggested the exchange was problematic and called for more conciliatory communication.