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World Prosecutors charge suspect alleged to have ordered killing of Slovak reporter

Candles are left out in memory of of slain journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova during a rally in Bratislava on March 16, 2018.

The Associated Press

A suspect has been charged in Slovakia with ordering the slaying last year of an investigative reporter and his fiancée, a case that brought down the Slovak government, police and prosecutors announced Thursday.

Two special prosecutors identified the suspect at a news conference as Marian K., omitting his full surname as is standard practice in Slovakia.

Slovakian news media reported the suspect was Marian Kocner, a businessman long suspected of involvement in the crime.

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Prosecutors, who deal with the most serious crimes, are never identified in Slovakia for their own protection.

Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova were shot to death in their home on Feb. 21, 2018. Mr. Kuciak had filed a complaint with police in 2017 saying Mr. Kocner had threatened him.

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An international press freedom group welcomed the move.

“This development constitutes clear and significant progress toward achieving justice for Jan and Martina”, said Scott Griffen, deputy director of the Vienna-based International Press Institute. “Holding masterminds of journalist killings accountable is very rare globally.”

Slovak authorities believe it was a contract killing linked to Mr. Kuciak’s work. He was investigating possible government corruption and ties between politicians and Italian mobsters.

The prosecutors, who formed a common investigative team with officials from Italy, said no Italian national was involved in the slayings.

Four other suspects have been charged, including the person who allegedly financed the killing as well as the one whom prosecutors believed committed the crime.

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Mr. Kocner is currently in detention in a separate case involving alleged forgery and securities crime.

The killings of Mr. Kuciak and Ms. Kusnirova triggered major street protests and a political crisis that led to the dismissal of the national police chief and the government’s collapse.

The prosecutors previously said a total sum of 70,000 euros (US$79,500) was paid for the alleged contract slayings.

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