TWO AND a half years, a plaque and countless promises after the murder of philosophy student Daniel Tupý in November 2005, four people have finally been charged with the crime.

Three of them are in custody. Richard H. is charged with murder, while Dávid S. and Ján S. are charged with assault. The fourth suspect committed suicide a few months after the crime.

All the suspects have pleaded not guilty. On March 2, a judge will decide whether to release them on their own recognizance.

"All accused give off the impression of being members of extremist groups, but that and the motive for the crime will be the subject of further investigation," Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák told a press conference on February 27. "The evidence is sufficient for us to indict them."

He added that because the investigation is ongoing, he cannot specify what that evidence is.

Some time ago, the Interior Ministry published that police had a DNA sample from a pair of brass knuckles found at the scene, but it remains unclear from whom.

"We are getting closer to a conclusion even without speaking to anyone," Kaliňák told the Sme daily in October 2007.

The fourth suspect, nicknamed "Grco", was well known in the underworld as a member of the "Piťo group" from the Bratislava district of Lamač. According to police, Grco was most likely not the one who killed Tupý.

"The charges against the deceased are simply a formality," Kaliňák explained at a press conference on February 27.

Alexander Filo, lawyer for the accused, told the media that his clients are innocent.

"This crime remains unsolved," Filo told the Hospodárske Noviny daily last November 27.

According to Filo, it should be considered whether his clients have become scapegoats.

"If all the evidence is as shaky as these charges, then my opinion against it is definitive," he said.

He also stressed that it was legally impossible to charge a deceased person.

"So it must be asked whether the police knew he was dead at all," Filo said.

Tupý was stabbed to death on November 4, 2005, at the Tyršovo embankment in the Bratislava district of Petržalka.

Seven friends with him at the time were assaulted. According to witnesses, the offenders chose Tupý because of his appearance - black clothes and long hair. He had a guitar with him when he was killed.

Witnesses also testified that there were nine attackers, who shouted: "We are skinheads!"

Tupý was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The stretched-out investigation, and the lack of arrests until now, earned the police a heap of criticism. As late as October 2007, Interior Minister Kaliňák created a special team to investigate the crime.

"It usually happens that when someone looks at a case with fresh eyes, they find what others failed to notice," Kaliňák said in explaining the shift in strategy.

Daniel Tupý, Sr. told the Czech public TV channel on February 27: "I would like to think that justice will triumph in the end, but we live in Slovakia, and we know how things are here."

Tupý's murder provoked mass protests against extremism that culminated on November 9, 2005, when non-governmental institutions organised a mass rally at Hodžovo Square. The marchers honoured Tupý by lighting candles at the site of his murder. Marches were also held in Košice, Zvolen and Prešov.