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Mečiar back in press limelight

Slovakia grabbed international headlines last week just hours after the dramatic arrest of former Prime Minster Vladimír Mečiar on April 20. Reports of the morning raid on Mečiar's Trenčianske Teplice home and the questionable force used by the 'black mask' police units were carried by various international and domestic media outlets. Below is a sampling.
Reuters reported: "Masked police commandos blasted their way into the villa of former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar in a dawn raid and charged him with abuse of power while in office. After repeated calls for him to come out were ignored, commandos stormed the house."


Mečiar speaks to reporters at a press conference after his arrest on April 20.
photo: TASR

Slovakia grabbed international headlines last week just hours after the dramatic arrest of former Prime Minster Vladimír Mečiar on April 20. Reports of the morning raid on Mečiar's Trenčianske Teplice home and the questionable force used by the 'black mask' police units were carried by various international and domestic media outlets. Below is a sampling.

Reuters reported: "Masked police commandos blasted their way into the villa of former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar in a dawn raid and charged him with abuse of power while in office. After repeated calls for him to come out were ignored, commandos stormed the house."

The BBC centred a lengthy analysis on the impact the arrest would have on the domestic profile of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) leader. The broadcast organisation said that the "detention and questioning of former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar has once again put the country's most controversial public figure in the spotlight."

BBC Central European analyst Gabriel Partos wrote: "For several weeks now Mr. Mečiar has been evading arrest by refusing to accept police summonses. His refusal to co-operate explains the extraordinary commando-style police raid on his home.

"The 57-year-old former Prime Minister's re-emergence into the limelight comes at a sensitive time in Slovak politics with the coalition government looking somewhat shaky, and the population suffering the effects of severe austerity measures," Partos continued. "Mr Mečiar's [most recent] encounter with the police is unlikely to be the last dramatic event in what has already been a colourful political career."

Reaction in domestic media raised questions concerning the arrest and the 'real' reasons behind the raid.

Nový Čas asked Chief Investigator Jaroslav Ivor why no charges had yet to be brought against the current government of Mikuláš Dzurinda over the illegal payment of bonuses to his cabinet members last Christmas. Ivor responded that the first criteria for any such charge was that the law had to have been deliberately broken. He added that such proof existed only in Mečiar's case.

The paper wrote: "The police were the wrongdoers because it is inappropriate to use explosive devices against such a person. The great manipulator [Mečiar] has again mobilised his people - it was his primary intention. The fact that he spent 13 million crowns from our taxes is just a triviality."

Slovenská Republika, the former media mouthpiece of the HZDS which remains fiercely pro-Mečiar, talked to president Rudolf Schuster about the police raid. Schuster said that it was a matter for the judiciary and police to decide if the use of such force was necessary.

The head of state added that in his opinion the issuing of a subpoena for Mečiar was correct and that the former premier's attempts to avoid the subpoena were wrong.

The daily Pravda drew a comparison with events unfolding thousands of miles away in America to parallel the Mečiar arrest.

Running a headline "The difference between Vladimír and Elian" the paper likened the Slovak police force's actions to those of the US law enforcers in Miami who in the pre-dawn hours of April 21 forcefully took Elian Gonzales from the home of his Cuban-American relatives to be reunited with his father.

Pravda said that in both cases the raids had upheld the rule of law, stating that Mečiar's arrest signified "a restoration of the rule of law" in Slovakia.

Compiled from press reports by Ed Holt

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