Accessibility links

Breaking News

Slovakia: Prosecution Of Politically Sensitive Crimes Resumes

Prague, 16 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Slovakia's new government is resuming prosecution of several major political crimes that the previous regime of Vladimir Meciar ignored or amnestied.

The chief of investigations at the Slovak Interior Ministry, Jaroslav Ivor, told reporters this week (Monday) that the prosecutor's office is considering indicting a former top Communist official, Vasil Bilak, for political and economic crimes.

Bilak would be charged with breaking the law on the protection of peace by allegedly inviting the Soviet Union to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968 at a time when Bilak, now 81, was the First Secretary of the Slovak Communist Party. Bilak would also face charges of violating regulations concerning hard currency and economic relations, for having donated $11.2 million in party funds to communist parties abroad.

The regional office for investigations has submitted a proposed indictment to the regional prosecutor. Fellow suspects in the case are the former director of the Czechoslovak State Bank and several former senior party colleagues, most of whom now reside in the Czech Republic.

Ivor says that during the investigation Bilak admitted that in August 1968 in Bratislava he personally handed a letter to the then General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev. Ivor quoted Bilak as telling investigators that what he gave Brezhnev was nothing more than a description of the domestic situation in Czechoslovakia. But Ivor suggested that it was actually a request for a military solution to the dispute with the reform Communist regime in Prague led by Alexander Dubcek.

But after Ivor's news conference, Bilak told the Slovak news agency TASR he did not hand over a letter requesting that Warsaw Pact armies enter Czechoslovakia.

On the donated funds, Bilak says communist party secretaries from Comecon member states at a meeting in Karlovy Vary agreed to form an international fund to support communist and workers' parties around the world. Bilak insists Czechoslovakia's contribution came from communist party membership dues and not from the state treasury.

Ivor says investigators have also resumed their inquiries into the 1995 abduction to Austria of the son of former president Michal Kovac and last year's interference by the Meciar regime in the conduct of a referendum on NATO membership and the manner of electing the president. Meciar earlier this year issued blanket amnesties concerning both cases. He declared the amnesties at a time when prosecutors were preparing to indict employees of the Slovak intelligence service (SIS) for their alleged roles in the kidnapping of Michal Kovac Junior and to indict Meciar's Interior Minister Gustav Krajci for interfering with the referendum.

Last week, Meciar's successor as Prime Minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, repealed the amnesties in a move some analysts say was necessary politically but had weak legal foundation. Ivor says Meciar's amnesties were irregular because they were awarded to indeterminate perpetrators for unspecified crimes. He told the daily Sme that indictments have not yet been prepared but that indictments concerning the abduction will be served no later than the end of January.

One other key case may also be brought to a close -- that of the former head of the Czechoslovak communist secret police (StB), Alojz Lorenc. Six years ago, a court in Prague convicted Lorenc along with former Czech interior minister Frantisek Kincl, and former Czechoslovak counterintelligence chief Karel Vykypel for their roles in ordering the destruction of StB files in late 1989. Kincl and Vykypel were imprisoned briefly. But Lorenc was saved by the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. He managed to make his way to Bratislava before the federal state split in two on January 1, 1993 and has remained in Bratislava ever since.

Slovak law bars Lorenc's extradition against his will to serve out his sentence in the Czech Republic. In order for Lorenc to be imprisoned in Slovakia for his crimes, he would have to face a retrial in a Slovak court. The Meciar regime closed the Lorenc case alleging that Slovak investigators did not have access to StB files in Prague. But chief investigator Ivan Sterusky, speaking at Ivor's news conference, hinted that Lorenc might still be brought to justice. He said the Slovak side has done everything for the criminal prosecution to proceed but offered no details beyond referring to the case as an "international problem".