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Court closes Sme reporter and ANO leader wiretapping case

THE BRATISLAVA Regional Court recently closed the wiretapping case brought forward by the chairman of the New Citizen Alliance (ANO) Pavol Rusko and a reporter with the Sme daily, dating back to December 2002. The court of appeal upheld the earlier verdict given by the Bratislava District Court in July of last year, according to which the former head of the wiretapping department at the Slovak intelligence service (SIS), Ľuboš Kužela, and his two colleagues are held innocent, the SITA news agency wrote.

The accused were acquitted, as it was not possible to prove their guilt.

According to the prosecutor, the three men were directly responsible for the technical administration of the wiretapping system. The Higher Military Prosecutor in Trenčín charged them in September 2004 with the abuse of their powers as public officials.

The prosecution asserted that the SIS employees were aware that the system permits illegal wiretapping and is capable of recording conversations.

Between April 1999 and December 2002, in breach of the intelligence service law, they did not take any steps against the illegal wiretapping of phone conversations.

ANO Chairman Pavol Rusko's phone conversation with a reporter from the Sme daily was tapped on December 18, 2002. The chairman's conversations with 11 other people of unknown identity were also recorded at other times, which constituted a breach of their rights.

The illegal wiretapping case began in December 2002 when Rusko and the reporter from Sme were sent recordings of their phone call. In January 2003, Rusko reported that his phone conversations had been bugged and threatened to remove his party from the governing coalition.

Vladimír Palko, then the Interior Minister, informed the media that the recording of the conversation appeared in the Interior Ministry's archive, however, the ministry had not ordered it and could not explain its existence.

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