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Slovakia Affected By Mysterious Violence

  • Jan de Weydenthal

Prague, May 10 (RFE/RL) - A mysterious kidnapping of President Michal Kovac's son, an unexplained violent death of a former Bratislava policeman linked with the case, and grenade explosions outside homes of opposition politicians; these are just some of the events that have recently affected Slovakia's public life.

The country is torn by rumors and allegations that all those events might have been somehow linked, that they might not have been accidental, and that they might have been politically motivated.

The government has denied these allegations. The police has failed to find any political motivation behind those cases. But it has also failed to find any culprits; so far.

Michal Kovac Jr, the president's son, was kidnapped by unknown assailants while driving near Bratislava last August. He was forced to drink a large amount of alcohol, bundled into a boot of his car and driven across the border to Austria, where he was dumped outside a local police station.

Subsequently, an Austrian court ruled that the Slovak secret service might have been involved in the kidnapping. The service has denied the allegation. The police investigation of the case has run into major problems when officers in charge claimed that some secret agents might have been involved after all. The officers were dismissed.

Last week, a former secret police agent, Robert Remias, died when the car he was driving burst into flames on the outskirts of the Slovak capital of Bratislava. Former police investigators and opposition politicians have hinted that Remias' death might be linked to Kovac's kidnapping case and might have political motivations.

The Slovak Interior Ministry said that there was no evidence of murder. It said that the explosion might have been caused by a faulty fuel system in the car.

Four days ago, a hand grenade exploded near a home of Bela Bugar, an opposition politician and member of the parliament. The police has failed to find the attacker.

Two days ago, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told a news conference in Bratislava that "there is not a shred of evidence to support allegations" of political motives behind Remias' death. He refused to answer questions about Kovac's kidnapping case "until the results of the investigation are known."

Meciar used the occasion to defend his government. He called it democratic and said that "objectively, Slovakia is not lagging behind other post-communist countries in creating a democratic system."

And he said that the parliament would debate again a new anti-subversion law which had been recently passed on the motion of the nationalist Slovak National Party, Meciar's ally in the coalition government.

The law would allow imprisonment of organizers of anti-government rallies, of people accused of spreading false information abroad and of those accused of even intention to subvert the government. The law prompted opposition by various groups, including the Catholic Church. It was returned to parliament for further debate by President Kovac, who objected to its formulations.

"It is the privilege of the president and the government to return laws to parliament," said Meciar, adding that "this time it was the president who used this prerogative.'

Kovac and Meciar have been long locked in a bitter power struggle. Kovac was instrumental in ousting Meciar's government in a parliamentary vote of confidence in 1994. But Meciar's party was re-elected several months later. Ever since, Meciar has repeatedly tried to force Kovac's ouster.

Two days ago, Slovak public television - controlled by Meciar's government - refused to broadcast President Kovac's speech to mark the 51st anniversary of the end of World War Two. Instead, the television broadcast a statement accusing Kovac of attempt to "exceed his constitutional power." It has failed to provide further details.