Bratislava, Slovakia – Marian Kocner, the Slovak tycoon and main suspect of masterminding the murder of reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova, was found not guilty of the gruesome assassination that rocked Slovakia more than two years ago.
The Slovak criminal court of Pezinok, where the high-profile case is being handled, dropped on Thursday morning a bombshell for a verdict.
“The crime was committed, but it has not been proved that Marian Kocner and Alena Zsuzsova ordered the murder”, judge Ruzena Sabova said in a ruling that appears to have taken most by surprise. “The court therefore acquits the defendants”.
Marian Kocner, a notorious businessman who always claimed his innocence in the Kuciak murder case, was only ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 for illegal possession of weapons. He was nonetheless already sentenced to 19 years imprisonment earlier this year in another, unrelated case of forgery.
According to BBC correspondent Rob Cameron, relatives of the murdered investigative journalist and his fiancée walked out of the courtroom before the judge finished announcing her decision.
Slovakia’s President Zuzana Caputova, a former anti-corruption lawyer who took center during the mass protests following Kuciak’s murder, declared she was “shocked” by the verdict and that she believed it would not stand in front of the Supreme Court.
While Kocner and Alena Zsuzsova, both suspected of being behind the hit, were acquitted this morning, three other suspects believed to have been directly involved in the murder were found guilty. In April, Miroslav Marcek received a 23-year jail sentence after admitting to carrying out the hit, while another man had also been convicted late last year to 15 years imprisonment for facilitating the murder.
In this morning ruling’s, a third man was also sentenced to spend 25 years in prison for his involvement.
The decision is not final, however, and state prosecutors have already announced they would appeal Thursday’s verdict acquitting the two defendants.