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Slovakia: Meciar Issues Amnesty Decree

Bratislava, 4 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has used his temporary presidential powers to issue an amnesty. The amnesty not only pardons certain categories of prisoners, but also halts all investigations and possible prosecution of individuals suspected of involvment in the kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son. It also shields from prosecution those involved in thwarting last year's failed constitutional referendum.

The amnesty, declared yesterday, was reported by the state TASR news agency today. Meciar wields many presidential powers in the absence of a head of state, following President Michal Kovac's departure from office at the end of his term earlier this week. The two had been bitter rivals for years.

Kovac's son, who is now facing trial in Germany on fraud charges, was kidnapped in 1995 and driven to an Austrian police station. Despite an international warrant for him, Austrian authorities returned Kovac Jr. to Slovakia, saying he had been illegally abducted and could not be handed over to Germany. Two Slovak government investigators looking into the episode were later taken off the case after alleging security service involvement.

The constitutional referendum, originally proposed by Kovac last year, asked voters if they favored the direct election of the persident as well as Slovakia's eventual entry into NATO. It was thwarted by the Interior Ministry, which declared it illegal.

The Constitutional Court recently overruled the ministry and Kovac, just before leaving office, declared a re-run of the referendum for April. But that decree was cancelled yesterday by Meciar.