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Ex-SIS head Lexa taken into custody

"You don't give a damn about the constitution! You breach the rights of a deputy," shouted Ivan Lexa, deputy for the opposition HZDS party, on April 15 as the parliament voted to put him into police custody. Lexa faces charges of abusing his power as a former boss of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) under the reign of ex-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar.
Lexa will stand trial for his alleged involvement in the abduction of Michal Kováč, Jr., the son of the former Slovak president, as well as his role in a car theft, in the illegal sale of a precious church picture, in the placing of an explosive device, and in the illegal monitoring of the NMT mobile telephone network.
While his constitutionally granted immunity from prosecution had already been lifted on April 9, the decision to put him in custody required another vote of parliament. The vote was called, said Jaroslav Ivor, general director of the investigation section at the Interior Ministry, on the appeal of an investigator to prevent Lexa from attempting to influence the testimony of witnesses to his alleged crimes.


HZDS Deputy Ivan Lexa will now stand trial for five separate crimes.
photo: TASR

"You don't give a damn about the constitution! You breach the rights of a deputy," shouted Ivan Lexa, deputy for the opposition HZDS party, on April 15 as the parliament voted to put him into police custody. Lexa faces charges of abusing his power as a former boss of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) under the reign of ex-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar.

Lexa will stand trial for his alleged involvement in the abduction of Michal Kováč, Jr., the son of the former Slovak president, as well as his role in a car theft, in the illegal sale of a precious church picture, in the placing of an explosive device, and in the illegal monitoring of the NMT mobile telephone network.

While his constitutionally granted immunity from prosecution had already been lifted on April 9, the decision to put him in custody required another vote of parliament. The vote was called, said Jaroslav Ivor, general director of the investigation section at the Interior Ministry, on the appeal of an investigator to prevent Lexa from attempting to influence the testimony of witnesses to his alleged crimes.

"The investigator in his request expressed concern that the investigation could be marred [by Lexa] and he stated reasons why," Ivor said in an interview with the daily Sme.

The debate on lifting Lexa's immunity took over sixteen hours, during which the deputies from both coalition and opposition gave speeches either in favour or against the prosecution of the deputy.

HZDS deputy Gustáv Krajči, who himself was stripped of immunity in March and could be prosecuted from marring the 1997 referendum, defended Lexa and accused the government of riding "a train to hell" by carrying out political trials such as the one of Lexa and his own.

"The question is, where [the government] will end and I believe, they'll end in hell soon," Krajči said in the parliament.

Krajči's party colleague Marta Podhradská said that "what is going on here is nothing but a political request to eliminate the party [HZDS] which is responsible for creating the independent Slovakia. Its chairman [Vladimír Mečiar] was the father of this [independent] state."

Lexa, for his part, told the parliamentary deputies in his final one-hour speech that there was no reason to put him into custody as the investigator's allegations "do not have legal grounds." He also appealed to the deputies that they not connect the allegations against him with Mečiar's name.

"Mečiar has never been in the [SIS] intelligence service and he has never given any orders," Lexa said.

Evidence mounts

Only a few hours before the vote, Ivor told media that Lexa's former SIS officer, Jaroslav Svěchota, who was detained by the police in early February and put in custody, had testified about his involvement in the abduction of Kováč, Jr. to Austria.

According to Ivor, Svěchota provided details about the offenders and circumstances of the crime and confirmed Lexa's participation in the case. The private TV Markíza reported on April 14 that the police had attained a shocking letter which documented that under Lexa's leadership the SIS had been preparing to assassinate Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda and Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner.

"The letter contained indications of assassination preparations of the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister," Ivor confirmed for the television station.

Powers to be limited

Before the custody vote, parliament stripped Lexa of the immunity granted by the Slovak Constitution, which protects a deputy from prosecution for any crime unless the cloak is lifted by with a simple majority of votes in parliament.

The deputies surrendered Lexa to criminal prosecution in five of seven cases of which he had been accused. Lexa will not be prosecuted in the two other cases, one of which involved the allegedly illegal use of a car owned by the SIS, and the other in which he refused to allow President Michal Kováč the right to remain silent in the course of an SIS investigation.

Lexa will retain his seat as a deputy, according to a ruling by the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee that states a deputy can remain in his position even after he is taken into custody. However, his right to make use of his parliamentary mandate will be limited in a way which has not yet been determined.

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