At a HZDS rally last year, supporters bemoaned the government's revocation of former Secret Service boss Ivan Lexa's parliamentary immunity.
According to a July 12 report by the private Mark'za TV station, Lexa is currently in the southern hemisphere on the Paradise Islands, a secluded tropical archipelago.
While police were unable to confirm the Mark'za report, or the allegation of the Sme daily newspaper that Lexa was "somewhere in the Southern hemisphere," Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner told the TASR news agency July 12 that he had information leading him to believe that Lexa had indeed escaped Slovakia "with the help of certain foreign groups."
Wherever he may be, Lexa's absence not only stymies one of the most significant legal cases waged against members of the former Vladim'r Mečiar government, but also, according to political professionals, may undermine confidence in Slovakia's legal and democratic systems.
When the current government took power in late 1998, Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda annulled amnesties issued by Mečiar for anyone involved in two high-profile political crimes that occured under his regime - the Kováč Jr. kidnapping case and the marred 1997 referendum on NATO entry.
Insisting that true justice demanded the crimes be solved, Dzurinda swept aside constitutional ambiguities about his power to annul amnesties, allowing the police to launch investigations into the kidnapping and referendum cases. But over a year and a half later, neither case has yielded a single criminal charge: charges against former Interior Minister Gustáv Krajči for marring the 1997 referendum have been challenged in the courts as unconstitutional, while the obstructionist Lexa is apparently no longer even in the country.
Cases against Lexa (left) and Gustav Krajči (centre), shown above at a Bratislava shooting range, have resulted in no charges to date.
Political analysts, meanwhile, criticised the police for not achieving concrete results in their investigations, and added that it was critical for the Dzurinda government to earn convictions on the cases in order to show that justice and a sense of law had returned to the country.
"The failure to prosecute shows a total failure by the police," said Grigorij Mesežnikov, the head of the Bratislava-based Institute for Public Affairs. "Finishing these cases is important, it's important to justify the actions of the current government. Those who committed such crimes must be punished. People like Lexa and Krajči traumatised the country and undermined the confidence in democracy."
Although police officials said last week that the two investigations had already been closed, charges against the prime suspects have not yet been laid. In the Lexa case, obstruction by the defendant has brought the prosecution to a halt: under Slovak law, no charges can be laid until the accused has been given the opportunity to read the criminal case compiled against him by the police. Lexa, who went into hiding months ago, has demanded to read the case files - but has refused to show up to do so, meaning that police cannot close their investigation.
Lexa's lawyers say that their client has refused to cooperate with police because his constitutional rights have been violated, and because his medical condition has deteriorated to the point where he is unable to testify. Lexa, according to his lawyers, has been exercising his "right to resistance."
Bratislava district police spokeswoman Magda Krasulová said that the police had not taken the obstruction lying down, and that upon hearing of his health problems had summoned Lexa for a medical examination. The suspect refused to show for the exams, however, because, according to Police Presidium spokesman Jaroslav Sahul, Lexa had witnessed the inept treatment offered Slovak President Rudolf Schuster by doctors last month and said he would not be subjected to inadequate care.
Juraj Trokan, a member of Lexa's team of lawyers, added that Lexa would remain in hiding because he feared persecution by the police. "Lexa cannot go public because they will arrest him immediately," Trokan said. "The police will take him into custody for resisting arrest and for other cases [including counts of fraud and sabotage] which the amnesty does not cover."
When asked by The Slovak Spectator whether his client was guilty, Trokan said: "For God's sake, how can I say whether my client [Lexa] is guilty when the whole situation is under amnesty? And after studying the [kidnapping case] files, I did not find any accusation that I believe he was guilty of."
Krasulová, meanwhile, said that the case against Lexa would remain stalled until he read the case. If Lexa were to never return to Slovakia, it would mean in theory that the case could never proceed.
The legal case against Gustáv Krajči (who has in addition been charged with accepting bribes and fraud) has also been halted. A Bratislava District Court decision on July 1 ruled that Mečiar's amnesty should be upheld, which although was not a statement of Krajči's innocence, has effectively halted proceedings. Krajči's lawyer on the case is Tibor Šafárik, the former Constitutional Court judge who produced a controversial ruling last year that crippled the state's case against Lexa.
Krasulová said that the 1997 referendum case against Krajči had been completed, but that charges could not be filed until the Supreme Court ruled on the legality of the case.