Slovak opposition MP's face kidnapping probe

Slovak police will charge two opposition deputies in connection with the notorious 1995 kidnapping of the son of former President Michal Kováč, Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said on January 26.
In August 1995, Kovac junior, whose father was a fierce critic of former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, was seized by masked men, pumped full of whisky, given electric shocks, dumped in the boot of a car and whisked off to neighbouring Austria. A Viennese court said at the time that Slovak authorities might have been behind the kidnapping, and two senior Slovak police investigators were sacked after saying members of the Slovak secret service, the SIS, had orchestrated the abduction.

Slovak police will charge two opposition deputies in connection with the notorious 1995 kidnapping of the son of former President Michal Kováč, Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said on January 26.

In August 1995, Kovac junior, whose father was a fierce critic of former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, was seized by masked men, pumped full of whisky, given electric shocks, dumped in the boot of a car and whisked off to neighbouring Austria. A Viennese court said at the time that Slovak authorities might have been behind the kidnapping, and two senior Slovak police investigators were sacked after saying members of the Slovak secret service, the SIS, had orchestrated the abduction.

The case provoked outrage at home and consternation abroad, particularly after Mečiar, who was defeated in an election last September, shelved the case and then used extraordinary amnesty powers to try to prevent any future prosecutions.

The former head of the SIS, Ivan Lexa, became a parliamentary deputy for Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) after the September elections. Mečiar resigned his own parliamentary seat in Lexa's favour, thus giving the former security boss parliamentary immunity.

Pittner said police would ask for the removal of parliamentary immunity from two deputies, but he would not say who they were. "I cannot name those deputies until the official request for lifting their parliamentary immunity has been made," Pittner said. "However, concrete charges have already been prepared and will be published probably next week."

He added that charges would be laid against those suspected of actually carrying out the kidnapping and those who organised it. "The circle of people who will be charged in connection with the case is wider and does not include only the two deputies," he added without elaborating.

Pittner would not comment on whether the investigation would also extend to the 1996 car bomb killing of Róbert Remiaš, a go-between feeding information on the case to the Slovak press from a former SIS agent in hiding abroad who claimed to have been involved in the Kováč kidnapping.

In December, the new prime minister, Mikuláš Dzurinda, scrapped Mečiar's controversial amnesties in the kidnapping case, saying his decision opened the way for new investigations.

Speculation on the motive for the abduction has centred on a warrant for Kováč junior's arrest issued by German judicial authorities who wanted to question him in connection with a fraud case.

Mečiar's opponents have said someone was apparently hoping that Austrian authorities would extradite Kováč junior to Germany, thus harming the reputation of President Kováč, Mečiar's most respected and highest-ranking political opponent.

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