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FIVE PEOPLE TO BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR AMMO WAREHOUSE BLAST

Nováky: "The biggest crime scene"

AFTER months of investigations, police charged five people on July 7 in connection with the explosion at the weapons processing company Vojenský Opravárenský Podnik (VOP) in Nováky that killed eight people on March 2, 2007.

AFTER months of investigations, police charged five people on July 7 in connection with the explosion at the weapons processing company Vojenský Opravárenský Podnik (VOP) in Nováky that killed eight people on March 2, 2007.

"Nováky is one of the biggest crime scenes in the history of Slovak crime investigation," Martin Korch, spokesman of the Slovak police, told The Slovak Spectator.

Police have charged four top managers and a security technician with being responsible through negligence for the explosion, which happened in the building where employees were dismantling ammunition. Trenčín's regional prosecutor Viera Kováčiková said that the company's current and past general directors are among the accused, according to the SITA newswire.

Kováčiková said the defendants are charged with creating a 'general threat' and allowing there to be an increased danger of explosion at the site. Many military and civil rules were violated and explosives were not stored correctly. None of those who were present in Hall 26 where the first blast occurred are among those charged, Kováčiková said, according to SITA.

A conviction of creating a general threat can result in a sentence of four to 10 years in prison.

The only information available on the accused, in addition to their positions, is that they are aged 31, 43, 49, 51 and 65 and they are from the Prievidza district. Their names will not be published at this time because of the presumption of innocence until being proven guilty and because a comprehensive police report will not be prepared until the investigation is completed, Korch said.

"The investigators and police specialists have taken, and are still taking, a number of special steps so that, after the investigation, we will definitely be able to say what caused the explosion," Korch told The Slovak Spectator. He added that after the cause is discovered, the people responsible for the accident will be brought to justice.

The surviving relatives of the explosion's eight victims believe the four managers are responsible for the tragedy, the TASR newswire reported.

Slovakia has already asked the Czech Republic for two expert opinions and investigators are trying to find out who initiated the first explosion.

For this reason, a reconstruction of the tragedy was carried out last week. Defence Minister František Kašický said he is satisfied with how the investigation has gone so far, SITA reported.

Kašický met with general prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka on July 9 to speak about the current situation and the accusations that have been made. After the meeting, Kašický said that the ministry will, as the full owner of the VOP, take certain organisational, technical and personnel-related steps, TASR reported.

The general director of the VOP, Ján Lasab, who is alleged to be among those charged, said he has not received a summons yet and therefore will not comment. He said he is ready to accept the Defence Minister's decision.

Lasab wrote that he was appointed to the position on March 14 and put in charge of consolidating the situation at the company. On July 11, he was dismissed from his post and replaced by Peter Trgiňa.

President Ivan Gašparovič said that it would not be good if production at the VOP stopped, SITA wrote. However, Gašparovič said, this situation would not have happened if there had been more responsibility.

The VOP is undergoing repairs at the moment and work has already resumed in the repaired halls.

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