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BY PETER SCHUTZ

Last chance

The evidence provided by an American lie detector test supports the conviction that the sentencing of six men for the 1976 rape-murder of medical student Ľudmila Cervanová was one of the grossest injustices committed in this country since its independence in 1993.

The evidence provided by an American lie detector test supports the conviction that the sentencing of six men for the 1976 rape-murder of medical student Ľudmila Cervanová was one of the grossest injustices committed in this country since its independence in 1993.

Indeed, now that the results of the testing of four of the men have been published in the Týždeň weekly, we can regard the final verdict of the Supreme Court from December last year confirming the guilt of all of the men and raising the sentences of three of them as a fatal mistake.

It is possible that an exceptional individual who can control his physiological functions could fool a lie detector test. It is even possible that four such miracle workers could be found in Nitra, or 200 of them in a country of five million. But the likelihood that four of them would find themselves accused of a single crime is about the same as winning a lottery.

Slovakia's judges and prosecutors can all say that the results of the testing in the case of four of the Cervanová accused is not proof. However, given that the law is supposed to serve justice and not the other way around, these test results are enough of a reason to re-open the Cervanová case, even if the law formally does not admit such a possibility.

It would be enough of a reason even if the verdict handed down by the Michalík Supreme Court senate had been convincing and not based on confessions secured during communism that the men said were forced out of them by brutal methods. The fact, also, that the court rejected 8,000 pages of evidence found in a secret police archives in Levoča as "irrelevant to the material evidence" (along with various other faulty decisions) left a huge question mark over the verdict even before it was read out. Following the tests conducted by the US expert Patrick T. Coffey, these doubts are now insupportable.

The comment made by Michalík as he read out the verdicts - "the accused are fortunate that Slovakia does not have the death penalty" - reeks of bias (they weren't executed in 1982, even when it was possible). The extraordinary legal appeal submitted by the counsel for the defense is now the last chance that the Slovak justice system has for giving the Cervanová accused - and the country as a whole - a fair trial.


Sme, February 27

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