Slovakia’s supreme court has overturned the acquittals of a businessman and his suspected accomplice for the murder of a journalist in a case that triggered mass protests and toppled the country’s previous government.
Well-connected multimillionaire Marián Kočner and Alena Zsuzsová will now face a new trial for the murder of Ján Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kušnírová, who were killed in their home in 2018.
“The court found that the specialised criminal court made several mistakes in the course of the trial, therefore it returns the case to the lower court,” judge Peter Paluda said.
“I am glad that justice will finally prevail. I believe that a new verdict will be more just,” Kuciak’s father, Jozef, said after the ruling.
In the ruling, judge Peter Paluda said the supreme court had found “several mistakes” in the trial and “therefore it returns the case to the lower court”.
The victims, both 27, were shot dead at their home outside Bratislava after Kuciak wrote several stories about the influential entrepreneur with ties to senior government politicians, alleging graft and shady dealings.
Reporters Without Borders, the international media watchdog, hailed the ruling saying on Twitter that it was “a step towards truth and justice”.
Slovak president Zuzana Čaputová said in a statement: “The suffering of parents and relatives of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová does not end after today’s decision of the supreme court, but they are again one step closer to justice.
“The supreme court has taken a very important step today to restore confidence in the judiciary,” she said.
Prosecutors argued that Kočner ordered Kuciak’s murder in revenge for articles accusing him of various property crimes.
In a statement in court in July last year, Kočner denied murder.
“I am not a saint, but I am not a murderer either. I’m certainly not a fool who wouldn’t realise what a journalist’s murder would lead to,” he said.
Kočner has separately been sentenced to 19 years in an unconnected fraud case.
Of the five original suspects, two confessed and have already been sentenced, including the gunman.
Ex-soldier and contract killer Miroslav Marček received 23 years in April 2020 for killing the couple.
The double murder plunged the country of 5.4 million people into crisis and triggered the largest demonstrations seen since the fall of communism.
The prime minister, Robert Fico, was forced to resign and replaced by his populist leftwing Smer-SD party deputy, Peter Pellegrini.
Parliamentary elections last year were won by the opposition, paving the way for a new centre-right, anti-graft government.