Ex-soldier admits contract killing of Slovak journalist

In this file photo taken on December 19, 2019, defendant Miroslav Marcek arrives for the start of the trial of Slovak businessman Marian Kocner, who is suspected of ordering the 2018 assassination of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova, at court in the Judicial Academy building in Pezinok, Slovakia. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Ex-soldier admits contract killing of Slovak journalist

  • Kuciak’s investigative journalism had delved into cases of fraud involving businessmen with political connections

PEZINOK, Slovakia: A former soldier admitted in court on Monday killing a Slovakian journalist whose murder two years ago led to anti-corruption protests that brought down the government of long-time prime minister Robert Fico.
Miroslav Marcek told a court he was hired to kill 27-year-old Jan Kuciak, who he shot along with Kuciak’s fiancée Martina Kusnirova at their house outside Slovakia’s capital Bratislava in February 2018.
Five people, including a prominent businessman who the investigation into the murder showed had links with security officials as well as judicial and political figures, have been charged in relation to the couple’s deaths.
The case is seen as a test of Slovakia’s judicial and political system ahead of an election in February.
Four suspects were in court on Monday in Pezinok, north of Bratislava, including Marcek’s cousin Tomas Szabo, who Marcek said had approached him with an offer from another of the defendants to undertake the contract killing.
A Reuters reporter said they were led into the courtroom by guards wearing balaclavas and carrying automatic rifles.
Marcek, 37, told the court how an initial plan to kidnap Kuciak and then kill him was abandoned because it was too complicated.
Describing the killings, he said he hid outside the house before the victims came home on Feb. 21 then waited for an opportunity to strike.
“That came when Ms Kusnirova went to the toilet. I hit him (Kuciak) in the chest,” news website www.sme.sk quoted Marcek as saying.
He said he had killed Kusnirova so that she could not identify him. “He (Kuciak) was falling backwards, he held on to the door with one hand, and she came. It was not possible to just leave,” Marcek said.
He told the court he was sorry for his actions and that he had decided to confess after seeing the victims’ families on television.
A fifth suspect, Zoltan Andrusko, admitted to facilitating the murder and was sentenced to 15 years in prison last month.
Also in court on Monday was businessman Marian Kocner, who is accused of ordering the hit. He denied that charge, but admitted a lesser offense related to illegal ammunition found by police at his house.
A third defendant, Alena Zsuzsova, denied charges of being an intermediary in the killings.
Szabo, a former police officer, pleaded not guilty to murder. Slovak media reported that Szabo said he had been approached by Andrusko about beating up Kuciak, but not killing him.
Kuciak’s investigative journalism had delved into cases of fraud involving businessmen with political connections.
He had reported on Kocner’s business activities, including the takeover of a television station and property deals.
Fico, his cabinet, and later the national police chief all resigned after the murders sparked Slovakia’s biggest protests since the fall of communism, with crowds calling for an independent investigation and an end to widespread corruption.
Fico continues to lead his Smer party ahead of the February parliamentary election.
Last March, liberal lawyer Zuzana Caputova rode a wave of public fury over corruption to win election as Slovakia’s first female president. 


Facebook’s Zuckerberg promises a review of content policies after backlash

Updated 06 June 2020

Facebook’s Zuckerberg promises a review of content policies after backlash

  • Trump's message contained the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts"

WASHINGTON: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday said he would consider changes to the policy that led the company to leave up controversial posts by President Donald Trump during recent demonstrations protesting the death of an unarmed black man while in police custody, a partial concession to critics.
Zuckerberg did not promise specific policy changes in a Facebook post, days after staff members walked off the job, some claiming he kept finding new excuses not to challenge Trump.
"I know many of you think we should have labeled the President's posts in some way last week," Zuckerberg wrote, referring to his decision not to remove Trump's message containing the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."
"We're going to review our policies allowing discussion and threats of state use of force to see if there are any amendments we should adopt," he wrote. "We're going to review potential options for handling violating or partially-violating content aside from the binary leave-it-up or take-it-down decisions."
Zuckerberg said Facebook would be more transparent about its decision-making on whether to take down posts, review policies on posts that could cause voter suppression and would look to build software to advance racial justice, led by important lieutenants.
At a staff meeting earlier this week, employees questioned Zuckerberg's stance on Trump's post.
Zuckerberg, who holds a controlling stake in Facebook, has maintained that while he found Trump's comments "deeply offensive," they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence.
Facebook's policy is either to take down a post or leave it up, without any other options. Now, Zuckerberg said, other possibilities would be considered.
However, he added, "I worry that this approach has a risk of leading us to editorialize on content we don't like even if it doesn't violate our policies."