September 23, 2019 / 5:36 PM / 5 months ago

Probe into 2018 murder of Slovak journalist and fiancée nears end - lawyer

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators light up their mobile phones as they attend an anti-government protest rally in reaction to last year's killing of the investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova in Bratislava, Slovakia, September 20, 2019. REUTERS/David W. Cerny/File Photo

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - The police have wrapped up the main part of their investigation into last year’s murder of a journalist and his fiancée, her family’s lawyer told Reuters on Monday, in a case that continues to shake Slovakia’s political scene ahead of February’s general election.

Five people charged with the murder and the families of both victims will now get familiar with the investigation file and will be given opportunity to propose additional evidence. A special prosecutor overseeing the case will then decide whether to submit the case to a court or request additional evidence.

The February 2018 murder of Jan Kuciak, who uncovered fraud involving politically connected businessmen, and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova cast a spotlight on corruption and cronyism in the Central European country and sparked mass protests that forced then-Prime Minister Robert Fico to resign.

He was replaced by hand-picked successor Peter Pellegrini, and his leftist party Smer remains the most popular in polls.

A subject of Kuciak’s reporting was Slovak entrepreneur Marian Kocner, one of five people now awaiting trial for the killings, who was also an acquaintance of politicians from various parties.

Four of those charged, including Kocner, have pleaded not guilty, while the fifth has confessed to shooting Kuciak and has been cooperating with police.

Kocner’s alleged reach into state bodies, as suggested by Slovak media that published parts of his text messages in which he discussed contacts among authorities with a woman charged in the case and with business allies, sparked public protests last week.

Special prosecutors said last month Kocner’s phone showed communications with “representatives of state bodies and the justice system.”

Kocner’s lawyer did not respond to emailed questions on some of the media reports.

Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova in Bratislava; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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