The long-awaited trial of a Slovak businessman and three other suspects in the killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee will go ahead next month.
The anti-corruption reporter and Martina Kusnirova, both 27, were gunned down in their house outside the capital, Bratislava, in February 2018. The double homicide sparked massive protests that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico.
At a December 19 pretrial hearing, judges at the Special Criminal Court in the town of Pezinok ordered the trial to begin on January 13 after they dismissed calls by the defense for a postponement because a lack of time to study the evidence.
Entrepreneur Marian Kocner, a subject of Kuciak’s reporting on fraud cases involving politically connected businessmen, is accused of contracting the killing.
The other defendants include two men suspected of carrying it out and a woman alleged to have acted as an intermediary.
If convicted, Kocner faces a minimum of 25 years in prison but could be jailed for life.
He is also under investigation for his role in several cases of suspected fraud.
As she entered the court in Pezinok, Kusnirova's mother demanded that Kuciak's investigations be resolved.
"Then their deaths will make at least some sense. It’s not enough to convict the murderers," Zlatica Kusnirova told reporters.
A fifth suspect in the case was not present. He has confessed to facilitating the killing and made a plea bargain pending court approval.
The killing of Kuciak and Kusnirova stoked public anger over perceived corruption in Slovakia, forcing Fico to step down as prime minister in March 2018 and paving the way for the election of environmental activist and lawyer Zuzana Caputova as president earlier this year.