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Lawyer-killers sentenced

Bratislava

Four men charged with arranging the murder of Bratislava lawyer Jozef Matula in Petržalka on February 10, 1997 have received prison sentences varying from six to 13 years. The sentences, announced in Bratislava on August 17, conclude a legal battle that began a year and a half ago and involved a Slovak Supreme Court decision.

The original trial was begun on April 21, 1998 and resulted in a January, 1999 guilty verdict. However, the decision was immediately overturned by the Supreme Court, whose members said they doubted the integrity of the lower court. A new trial began earlier this year on May 5 and was postponed six times by Milan Meszaroš, one of the accused, who "objected to the bias of the chairwoman and the members of the senate." Despite the delays, however, the court finally reached agreement and sentenced the four men.

Milan Meszaroš, 28, was convicted of organising and ordering the murder of Matula for 100,000 Slovak crowns with his cohort and brother Štefan Meszaroš, 24. Ľudovít Takacs was sentenced for recommending to the brothers hit-man Kristian Ruzič, 22, who carried out the murder for a 40,000 crown ($950) down payment. The offenders were soon thereafter arrested by Bratislava police.

Milan Mezsaroš and Ruzič both received 13 years in prison. Štefan Mezsaroš will serve 11 years while Takacs was handed a six year sentence. The elder Meszaroš has appealed the decision, but the other three convicted have decided to accept their sentences.

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