PEZINOK, Slovakia – An alleged hitman plead guilty today in a Slovak court to murdering journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová in February 2018.
Miroslav Marček, a former solider, testified that he shot Kuciak on February 21, 2018 at the home he and Kušnírová shared in Velka Maca. He said that he then killed Kušnírová – apparently unplanned – after she saw his face, chasing her into the kitchen and shooting her in the head.
The admission came on the first day of the long-awaited trial against four suspects in the murder case, which rocked Slovakia, prompting the country’s largest protests since the Velvet Revolution and forcing out former Prime Minister Robert Fico. The International Press Institute (IPI) is attending the trial as an observer.
In addition to Marček, the suspects on trial are Tomáš Szabó, Marček’s cousin and the alleged getaway driver; Alena Zsuzsová, a suspected middlewoman; and Marian Kočner, a well-known businessman charged with ordering Kuciak’s killing as retaliation for his journalistic work.
A fifth suspect, Zoltán Andruskó, had previously pled guilty for his role in the crime and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in December. Prosecutors say that Andruskó, working on behalf of Zsuzsová and ultimately Kočner, tasked Szabó and Marček with carrying out the murder.
Marček confirmed Andruskó’s role but said he was not made aware of the identity of the mastermind. Asked by the court why Andruskó sought Kuciak’s murder, Marček testifed: “He only said that he was writing about something he shouldnt be writing about.”
Day 1 Summary
• Presiding judge Ružena Sabová opened proceedings, reminding defendants of their rights and international observers of courtroom rules. Around 100 journalists are accredited for the trial.
• Prosecutors laid out their case, charging the defendants with premeditated murder, trading and possession of illegal weapons and home invasion. Lawyers for the defence rejected the prosecutors’ claims, challenging the indictment as insufficient and “contradictory”, attacking the credibility of prosecution witness Andruskó and hitting out at media coverage of the killing.
• The suspects then entered pleas: Zsuzsová not guily; Szabó statement declined; Marček guilty; and Kočner guilty of illegal weapons possession only.
• Marček delivered his testimony, beginning my apologizing to the victims’ families, prompting tears from them. When asked whether he took measures not to tell anyone else besides Kuciak, the intended target, he told the court: “I waited until she (Kušnírová) went to the bathroom and hoped she would stay there. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
• Marček also said that he and Szabó originally planned to kidnap Kuciak and then kill him. They abandoned the plan, Marček said, after deeming it unrealistic as they were likely to be seen.
• Zsuzsová also took the stand, rejecting any responsibility for the murder. She said she did not know Szabó or Marček and that she never asked Andrusko to commit a murder. She disputed that Kocner paid her to arrange the killing.
• Kočner himself that testified, admitting guilt related to the weapons charges, but declined further comment. He said he only knew Zsuzsová among the defendants.
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen
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