Slovak investigative reporter and girlfriend shot dead

Policemen stand guard at the crime scene where Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Marina Kusnirova were murdered in Velka Maca, some 50 km from Bratislava, Slovakia, on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 27 February 2018
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Slovak investigative reporter and girlfriend shot dead

PRAGUE: A Slovak investigative reporter and his girlfriend were shot dead in their home in an attack likely linked to his reporting, which was focused on tax evasion, Slovakia’s top police officer said Monday.
The bodies of 27-year-old Jan Kuciak and his partner were found on Sunday evening in their house in the town of Velka Maca, east of the capital, Bratislava, police president Tibor Gaspar said.
Police went to the house at the request of a worried family member.
Gaspar said the killings “likely have something to do with his investigative activities.” He declined to elaborate.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said if that if that were the case, it would be “an unprecedented attack on freedom of the press and democracy in Slovakia.”
Fico announced his government was offering €1 million ($1.23 million) to anyone who helped the authorities find those behind the killings.
President Andrej Kiska called for a quick investigation of the crime.
“We have to find those who did it as soon as possible and ensure the safety of all journalists,” Kiska said in a statement.
Gaspar said the reporter was shot in the chest while the woman was shot in the head. He said they were estimated to have been killed between Thursday and Sunday.
He added that Slovakia “has never faced such an unprecedented attack on a journalist.”
Kuciak was working for Aktuality.sk news website. He focused mainly on tax evasion.
“We are shocked and stunned by the news that Jan Kuciak and his partner were apparently victims of a cruel attack,” publisher Ringier Axel Springer Slovakia, to which Aktuality.sk belongs, said in a statement.
“We mourn with the family, the friends and the colleagues; we will do everything to support the investigating authorities to bring the perpetrator to justice.”
In his latest story, Kuciak reported on a businessman suspected of selling flats in an apartment complex to his own companies. The reporter questioned the business reason for doing that, and speculated that it could be a method of avoiding tax.
Kuciak said last year he filed a complaint with police after the businessman, Marian Kocner, threatened him following another story about him. Kuciak then complained that police failed to act.


Italian hostage freed after 3 years in Syria returns home

Updated 10 min 22 sec ago
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Italian hostage freed after 3 years in Syria returns home

  • The man who disappeared traveled to Turkey in October 2016
  • An official said the man was kidnapped by a criminal gang

MILAN: Italy’s defense minister says an Italian who had been held hostage in Syria for three years has been released and returned to Italy.

Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta late Wednesday confirmed Alessandro Sandrini’s arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport and thanked Italian intelligence services for their role in his liberation. Details were not disclosed.

Sandrini, who is in his early 30s, disappeared after traveling to Turkey in October 2016, and wasn’t heard from for over a year. In July 2018, a dramatic video showed Sandrini wearing an orange jumpsuit flanked by masked men brandishing automatic weapons, appealing to Italy to help free him as quickly as possible.

A local government in Syria affiliated with the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group Hayat Tahir-al Sham said he had been kidnapped by a criminal gang.