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Ex-soldier admits pulling trigger in killing of Slovak journalist and fiancée that rocked country

Miroslav Marcek says his cousin approached him with offer to do the contract killing

Posted: January 13, 2020
Last Updated: January 13, 2020

Former soldier Miroslav Marcek, shown Dec. 19 in a courtroom in Pezinok, Slovakia, at a preliminary hearing, on Monday admitted to killing a Slovak journalist and the journalist's fiancée. (Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters)

Former soldier Miroslav Marcek admitted on Monday to killing a Slovak journalist and his fiancée, a crime that sparked mass protests leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Marcek told the Special Criminal Court in Pezinok, north of the capital Bratislava, that he accepted guilt, an admission that could reduce his sentence from potential life imprisonment.

Marcek acknowledged he shot dead investigative reporter Jan Kuciak, 27, and Martina Kusnirova in their house outside Bratislava in February 2018.

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"I am guilty as per Article 1," Marcek told the court when the judge asked the four defendants to make statements on the charges presented by the prosecutor.

Marcek, 37, said his cousin — co-defendant Tomas Szabo — had approached him with an offer to do the contract killing and drove him to the house.

Marcek told the court that he had not known who Kuciak or Kusnirova were when he killed them.

"I want to apologize to those affected for the harm that we have caused. Nothing can make up for that, there is no satisfactory apology. Seeing them on television, seeing their pain forced me to talk," he told the court, according to Aktuality.sk news website.

Police president resigns

Marcek's confession was not a total shock as Slovak public television reported police sources as saying last year he had admitted his guilt during questioning.

The killing led to large demonstrations against graft that forced Fico and the country's police president to step down.

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Prominent businessman Marian Kocner was also in court, accused of ordering the hit. He denied the charge, but he admitted to a lesser illegal arms offence — the police found undeclared ammunition at his place.

Slovak businessman Marian Kocner, accused of masterminding the hit, pleaded guilty on Monday to a lesser offence. (Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters)

Several senior justice officials later quit after investigations revealed they had been in contact with Kocner, who was the subject of Kuciak's reporting. Kuciak had reported on Kocner's business activities, including the takeover of a television station and property deals.

Prosecutors claim a total of 70,000 euros ($112,000 Cdn) was paid. Kocner had allegedly threatened the journalist following publication of a story about him.

Another suspect, Alena Zsuzsova, denied charges of being an intermediary in the killings.

Szabo, a former police officer charged alongside Marcek with murder, did not enter a plea.

A fifth suspect, Zoltan Andrusko, confessed in December to facilitating the murder, and a court handed him a 15-year prison sentence.

Fico, his cabinet, and later the national police chief, resigned after the murder provoked the country's biggest protests since the fall of communism.

Crowds called for an independent investigation and an end to widespread corruption.

With files from The Associated Press