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Supreme Court rules on oldest criminal case

MORE THAN 30 years since the crime took place, the Supreme Court has finally issued a verdict in the longest-running criminal case in the history of Slovakia, confirming the guilt of six people convicted of the rape and murder of Ľudmila Cervanová in 1976.

In its ruling on December 4, 2006, the court even increased the sentences of three of the men by two years. It was not immediately clear how many more years the men have still to serve, as they spent up to nine years in prison during the 1980s.

The defense has said it would launch a special appeal of the court's decision, although the Supreme Court verdict is final.

In 1976, the body of a 19-year-old medical student was found drowned near the village of Kráľová pri Senci. In 1981 seven young men from Nitra were accused of the rape and murder of Ľudmila Cervanová, and in 1982 the communist-era Bratislava Regional Court sentenced them to jail.

However, in the spring of 1990, the Supreme Court of Czechoslovakia annulled the verdict, saying the communist court had made 72 procedural and factual errors, and that “on the basis of the trial that occurred, it was not possible to establish the guilt or innocence of the accused. The court returned the case to a lower court for re-trial.

All the accused maintain that they are not guilty and that their original confessions were obtained under duress. In addition, more than 8,000 pages of witness statements that were detached from the case file and hidden away in a police archives in Levoča have never been admitted by the courts, despite the fact that they cast doubt on the men’s guilt.

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