Bratislava, Slovakia – Miroslav Marcek was sentenced on Monday to 23 years in prison after admitting to being the killer of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, in February 2018.
Kuciak killer sentenced to 23 years imprisonment
“It was cold-blooded and malicious. The victims did not have a chance to defend themselves”, said Ruzena Szabova, the presiding judge of the Specialized Criminal Court of Pezinok, north of Bratislava. She added that the sentence had been slightly reduced due to the fact that Marcek had confessed to the killing and expressed remorse for his actions.
Marcek, a 37-year-old former soldier, had pleaded guilty to the murder of 23-year-old investigative reporter Jan Kuciak. He was not present at the sentencing. Marcek was also ordered to pay €140,000 and €70,000 to Kuciak’s parents and Kusnirova’s mother respectively. During the proceedings, he also admitted to killing businessman Peter Molnar in 2016.
The decision is not final, as prosecutor Juraj Novocky appealed the court’s verdict.
The trial of three other defendants is still ongoing and should resume on April 15: Marian Kocner, the high-profile businessman whose shady dealings were part of Kuciak’s investigation and who was charged with ordering the murder. As well as Tomas Szabo, Marcek’s cousin who allegedly drove the getaway car, and Alena Zsuzsova, who served as middlemen in the killing.
All three pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In December last year, a fifth defendant, Zoltan Andrusko cooperated and entered a plea deal with the case’s prosecutors. He was sentenced to 15 years in jail for facilitating the hit. “I am terribly sorry about what happened”, he said. “It’s impossible to fix it, but I will try to do all I can to set things right”.
Jan Kuciak’s murder, a turning point in Slovakia
The assassination of Kuciak and Kusnirova at their home in the town of Velka Maca, east of Bratislava, shook Slovakia to its core. The killings led to mass anti-corruption protests that forced then-Prime Minister Robert Fico to resign, ushering in a new era in Slovak politics.
The ensuing investigation into the murder, and revelations of Marian Kocner’s links to top officials in the judicial system, led to a string of additional resignations. More than a dozen judges and prosecutors were arrested last month in an unprecedented anti-corruption raid.
The wave of public anger sparked by the gruesome killings brought anti-corruption lawyer and activist Zuzana Caputova to the presidency and culminated in the victory of anti-graft opposition movements in February – ending a nearly uninterrupted 14-year-rule of Fico’s Smer party.
And although the sentence handed out to the killer of Jan Kuciak marks an important day for justice in Slovakia, it’s only the first step on a long path.