Sme loses court battle against Mečiar government
Publishing house VMV was ordered on January 20 by the Bratislava regional court to publicly apologise and pay damages of 4.2 million crowns to 10 members of the former Vladimír Mečiar government for an article printed in its daily newspaper Sme in 1996. A sentence in the offending article said the government, through "sacrifices" such as the 1995 murder of police informer Róbert Remiaš, had launched "a cold war" against the country's citizens. The verdict upheld a 1998 decision passed by the Bratislava I District Court.
Remiaš, a friend of a key witness in the Michal Kovač Jr. kidnapping case, was killed in Bratislava when a bomb exploded under his car. Recent findings by the police suggest that the murder was organised by an underworld group, although there is still suspicion that the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), which had Remiaš under surveillance at the time, was also involved.
VMV Director Alexej Fulmek said he was shocked by the court decision. In the January 20 edition of Sme, he wrote that the company and the paper had always pursued independence and freedom of speech in the media.
Bus accident claims four lives
Three woman (aged 21, 44, and 49) and one man (49) were killed when the driver of a Slovak Bus Transport bus lost control and crashed head-on into a passenger car carrying all four victims on the Bratislava to Záhorská Bystrica line on January 20. The driver reportedly slammed on his brakes after nearly hitting a parked Škoda, causing the bus to skid into the opposite lane.
No serious injuries were reported to the passengers of the bus. The two older women and the man died immediately while the younger woman, who was the daughter of one of the older victims, died en route to hospital.
Former minister's daughter commits suicide
The body of 33 year-old Dana Slavkovská, the daughter of former Education Minister Eva Slavkovská, was found by her father in her Bratislava flat on January 24, in what appears to have been a suicide. The initial findings of a coroner report indicate that Slavkovská died between midnight and 2 a.m. on January 22 from an overdose of Thiopentone, a barbiturate drug used as a general anaesthetic and a sedative.
Police spokesman Jaroslav Sahul said that the circumstances surrounding the suicide had not yet been determined, as no suicide note was found at the scene.
Siamese twins born by caesarean section
Siamese twins were born by caesarean section at St. Barbara's hospital in Rožňava on January 21. Chief physician Mária Pisarčíková said that the twins had been placed under the close supervision of a team of specialists at the hospital's intensive care unit. The doctors are examining the anatomical structure of the twins to determine further treatment.
The babies, weighing a combined 5.6 kilograms at birth, are joined at the pelvis but have separate limbs. Although their sex will be determined only after detailed genetic examinations, they are both believed to be girls, Pisarčíková said.
Half-frozen father and son rescued in mountains
A father and his 19-year-old son were rescued by the High Tatras Rescue Service (THS) on January 22 after they were caught in a blizzard. They were found sitting on a rock suffering from exhaustion and frost-bite.
The two men were trying to hike to the High Tatra cottage-hotel Sliezky Dom, as they had been hired to guard the building and look after its heating system during the winter months. Another winter guard was awaiting them at the hotel, but when they failed to show up he called the THS.
"Employees of cottages should not go out," said a THS rescuer. "They could have died had we not arrived on time." The Tatra region has been plagued by avalanches this winter due to the excessive snowfall, which has prevented some resorts from beginning their ski seasons.
141 murders in Slovakia last year
A total of 141 people were murdered in Slovakia during 1999, an increase of three over 1998. By region, Bratislava recorded the most murders (27) followed by Banská Bystrica (25) and Nitra, Trnava and Žilina, all with 12 murders.
The largest mass killing occured on March 25 in Dunajská Streda when 10 underworld figures were killed by three assasins. The oldest victim was 86-year-old Barbora K., who was hit in the head with an unidentified object in Malacky, while the youngest was 9 year-old Tomáš Z., who was thrown into a river by a drunk in Rimavské Janovce.
Compiled by Chris Togneri from TASR