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Man Freed After Being Held In Probe Into Killing Of Bulgarian Journalist


A woman places flowers next to a portrait of slain TV reporter Viktoria Marinova during a vigil at the Liberty Monument in Ruse on October 8.
A woman places flowers next to a portrait of slain TV reporter Viktoria Marinova during a vigil at the Liberty Monument in Ruse on October 8.

A man taken into custody in Bulgaria in connection with the killing of a television journalist who highlighted suspected government corruption was released due to lack of evidence that he was involved, Bulgarian police said on October 9.

Teodor Atanasov, the police chief of the northern Bulgarian city of Ruse, announced the release of the man, who wasn't identified but was described as a Romanian citizen of Ukrainian descent.

He declined to provide further details on the investigation.

Viktoria Marinova's body was found on October 6 in a park near the Danube River in Ruse.

Police have said the 30-year-old journalist was brutally beaten, raped, and strangled, and that their inquiry was looking into both her personal and professional life.

Marinova, who served as a member of the management team of the private television station TVN, hosted a show last month featuring two investigative journalists who were detained for their work on suspected fraud involving EU funds linked to businessmen and politicians.

The pair, Romanian Attila Biro from the Rise Project and Dimitar Stoyanov from Bulgarian website Bivol, were briefly detained in Bulgaria in September while looking into the case.

Slain Bulgarian Journalist Mourned At Vigil
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Marinova is the third journalist to have suffered a violent death in the European Union alone over the past 12 months, after Jan Kuciak in Slovakia in February and Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in October 2017.

Both Kuciak and Caruana Galizia were known for their work exposing corruption.

While Marinova didn't appear to have been closely involved in the fraud investigation, her show touched on a sensitive subject in Bulgaria, where corruption is endemic. Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 together with Romania, but both have been kept under EU monitoring for corruption and lack of enough justice reforms.

Hundreds of people went on to protest against corruption in front of the Palace of Justice in the capital, Sofia, and called for the resignation of the government and chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov.

Led by the anticorruption group BOETS, the demonstrators pledged to continue protesting daily until the journalist's killer is found.

Interior Minister Mladen Marinov and Bulgaria's leading organized crime investigator, Ivaylo Spiridonov, are part of the investigating team.

Marinova’s death also drew international calls for a rapid and resolute action, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging governments to ensure "accountability" for crimes against journalists such as Marinova's "grisly murder and rape."

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that there has been “a very worrying increase of violence, sexual and otherwise, that's particularly targeting women journalists."

The European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, took to Twitter to urge Bulgaria to conduct a “swift and thorough” investigation into the killing and to bring those responsible to justice, saying "there is no democracy without a free press."

Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Commission, said October 8: "Again a courageous journalist falls in the fight for truth and against corruption.”

The EU pledged its support for Bulgarian authorities as they continued their investigation.

On October 9, PEN America, a U.S. freedom of expression group, called for a thorough and swift investigation into the the killing of Marinova, saying that "the horrifying rape and murder....demands an immediate, rigorous, and independent investigation."

With reporting by Ivan Bedrov, Balkan Insight, AP, and Reuters
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