News Briefs

Key witness twice changes testimony in Černák case
Protesting trade unionists block Bratislava traffic

Key witness twice changes testimony in Černák case

The Slovak Supreme Court ruled on the appeals case of mob boss Mikuláš Černák February 7, confirming his eight and a half years sentence in prison for extortion, but returning the murder and kidnapping guilty verdicts to the lower court in Banská Bystrica to be retried. The Supreme Court verdict may not be appealed.
The case was complicated by the prosecution's star witness Alexander H., who twice changed his testimony during the appeal. On February 5, he said in court that Černák had not murdered Polish businessman Grzegor Szymanek (as he testified before), but that a now-dead professional hit man had done so. Alexander H. said the boss of a rival mob group from Košice had, with police cooperation, pressured him into testifying against the Banská Bystrica mob boss.
Police then promptly arrested Alexander H. and charged him with perjury. Once in police custody, however, Alexander H. said that he had been pressured into recanting his original testimony by parties close to Černak, who threatened to kill him and his immediate family, which had not been placed under police protection. The witness then re-changed his testimony back to its original, saying Černák was indeed the murderer of the Polish national.
After the witness's admission, Slovak Chief Investigator Jaroslav Ivor provided journalists with a section of a taped dialogue between Alexander H. and his lawyer, who had tried to persuade the witness in June 2000 to change his testimony, suggesting he demand 10 million Slovak crowns ($213,000) from Černák as payment. The lawyer, Štefan J., was arrested and charged with attempting to suborn the witness.
Since the court case against Černák began in November 1999, two key witnesses in the case have been gunned down. The court case is said to have been the largest trial ever against an organised crime figure in central Europe. The original decision was appealed by Černák. The case was opened by the Slovak Supreme Court on January 30 in Bratislava under tight security.

Protesting trade unionists block Bratislava traffic

Approximately 2,000 trade unionists brought in by bus from all over Slovakia gathered at a protest rally in Bratislava to protest the failure of the Slovak government to meet the objectives of its 'general agreement' with labour for 2000, in particular reducing unemployment [now over 18%] and increasing real wages, said Emil Machyna, head of the engineering section of the metalworkers trade union KOVO on February 6.
The protesting unionists marched across the city centre and gathered in front of the Slovak Office of Government where Machyna submitted a petition calling for the union's demands to be met. He suggested that if the government failed to meet the demands, trade union activists would block border crossings and roads to factories in protest.
The protest march, which had not been publicly announced in advance, completely blocked transport in downtown Bratislava. City police were caught by surprise, saying that the unions had not gained permission to hold the protest. KOVO said they would continue seeking a collective agreement with the government and that if negotiations failed on this front, they would consider a strike.

Compiled by Chris Togneri
from SITA and TASR

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