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Arrests made in Kuciak investigation

Four people have so far been charged with the murder of Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, shot dead at their home in the town of Vel’ka Mača on February 21.

According to Andrea Predajnova, a spokeswoman for the Slovak prosecutor’s office, three as yet unnamed suspects were detained on September 27 during a house raid by Slovak police. The fourth person is Alena Zsuzsová, a translator who worked for Slovak businessman Marián Kočner, already in custody for fraud charges and for having threatened Mr Kuciak on the phone last year.

It now appears that a total sum of 70,000 euros was paid for the murder. According to the prosecutors “it is highly likely that one of those arrested paid the sum but the question is where the money came from,” suggesting that further people will be implicated in the crime.

At the time of his death, Mr Kuciak was investigating alleged political corruption linked to Italian organised crime and involving EU structural funds. Prosecutors have always insisted that they believed Mr Kuciak was killed to stop his investigation. After the killings, anti-corruption street protests brought about the resignation of prime minister Robert Fico.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is still concerned about the situation in the country, seven months after the murders. Although the Special Prosecution Office reports that until today investigators have interrogated more than 200 people in the procedural status of witness, many irregularities have been noted in the conduct of the case, to the point that in a joint opinion piece published on August 17, more than 300 Slovak reporters and editors said they had “doubts about the independence of the investigation and the language they use when talking to and about journalists is even harsher now.”

Slovakia has fallen sharply in RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 27th out of 180 countries. Kuciak’s murder has highlighted the many problems that its journalists face.