Relatives and friends attend the funeral of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak in Stiavnik, Slovakia on Saturday, March 3, 2018. Kuciak an investigative journalist shot dead in Slovakia last week was working on a story about the activities of Italian mafia in his country and their links to people close to Prime Minister Robert Fico. (AP Photo/Bundas Engler)

Slovak leader urges govt changes amid crisis over reporter

March 04, 2018 - 11:13 am

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovak President Andrej Kiska called Sunday for substantial changes in the country's coalition government or for an early election to resolve the "serious political crisis" the country is facing after the slayings of an investigative reporter and his fiancee.

The bodies of 27-year-old Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova were found Feb. 25 in their house, shot dead.

In his last unfinished story, Kuciak reported on the influence of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and its possible ties to people close to Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.

"There's a huge public distrust of the state," Kiska said in a televised speech. "And many don't trust law enforcement authorities ... This distrust is justified. We crossed the line, things went too far and there's no way back."

Kiska's speech came two days after tens of thousands of protesters marched in dozens of Slovak cities to honor Kuciak, with some demanding the resignation of Fico's government.

Kiska, a rival of Fico, says he will open talks with the country's leaders in next days.

A junior party in the ruling coalition and the opposition have both called for Interior Minister Robert Kalinak to resign — a call that Kalinak, who has been linked to an earlier corruption scandal, has rejected.

Any early election would have to be approved by parliament.

Kiska said he believed the investigators in the case were doing a good job but he added "many believe that this tragedy in many aspects reflects the Slovak reality."

Earlier Sunday, Slovak authorities renewed their investigation into threats against Kuciak, who alleged last year that businessman Marian Kocner threatened him following the publication of a story about him. The reporter said he filed a complaint with police and alleged they failed to act.

Kocner has denied any wrongdoing.

During a debate Sunday on the TA3 news television, Prosecutor General Jaromir Ciznar acknowledged the previous complaint and said investigators will re-examine the threats. He added, however, that he personally didn't believe this case had anything to do with Kuciak's death.

Ciznar said Italian experts will likely join the local investigative team working on the case.

The Slovaks previously have said the FBI, Britain's Scotland Yard, Europol and police forces from Italy and the Czech Republic are helping them with the investigation.

A former Italian anti-mafia prosecutor has said that Italy tried to warn Slovakia about the increased influence of the Italian mafia there.

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