PRAGUE—Last month, a Slovakian tycoon accused of masterminding the assassination of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak in 2018—a murder that profoundly transformed Slovakian politics—was acquitted by a special criminal court in Bratislava, the capital.
The surprising verdict in what Michal Vasecka, a sociologist at the Bratislava Policy Institute, calls “the most followed trial in the history of Slovakia,” has been met with “anger and disbelief,” he says. Many Slovaks see the acquittal of Marian Kocner as a major setback in the government’s campaign to rid the small Central European nation of its endemic corruption. “It seems that the apparent plotters of murder want to escape the claws of justice,” Prime Minister Igor Matovic, a populist parvenu whose party won parliamentary elections in February on an anti-graft platform, said after the acquittal.
The 27-year-old Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, were shot and killed at their home in February 2018. In the months before his death, Kuciak had published a number of investigative reports about the dealings of Kocner, a prominent businessman whose close connections with senior politicians and with foreign organized crime groups had long been open secrets. He is currently serving a 19-year prison sentence, handed down by a separate court in February, for a litany of corruption charges.