CAR explosions in Košice are believed to be the work of Mafia gangs.
Because of the timing of the latest spate of firebombs, local police are connecting these crimes with a judge's procedural error that enabled seven Košice Mafia figures who were facing murder charges walk free. That happened on September 9, just two days before the newest round of firebombs began.
"The situation in this region is very serious, and it's all the Košice judge's fault," said Jaroslav Spišiak, first vice-president of the Police Presidium.
"Potential witnesses have all decided not to speak. They can see that criminal cases in Slovakia often don't get completely solved. The consequences of this unusual [judicial] procedure are far-reaching," he said.
The judge in question, Dušan Kán, is currently facing disciplinary proceedings for his failure to request an extension to the seven suspects' pre-trial custody within a limit set by the law. The suspects are allegedly members of a mafia group formerly run by murdered gangland boss Karol Kolárik, and the car explosions are believed to be a reaction to their release by other Mafia gangs.
However, since the victims of these offences are various, ranging from criminals to bureaucrats and businessmen, fear has grown among ordinary citizens. The police have had to allocate large amounts of money to place the seven Kolárik gang members under surveillance and to provide protection to parked vehicles across the Košice region.
"Because of this questionable judicial procedure, and the current need to protect the general public, we have had to put aside other cases we were working on," said Spišiak.
While none of Košice's citizens have openly expressed their fear to the regional police headquarters, several have called the Police Presidium, and some have even spoken to Vice-President Spišiak himself.
"These [firebombings] aren't making people afraid for their lives. They are more concerned about their property, health and businesses," Spišiak said.
The citizens The Slovak Spectator spoke to on the streets of Košice all voiced their anger at the judge's procedural error. However, they said they thought the only people to be directly affected would be those who were somehow connected to the Košice underground.
"Everybody is angry that the gangsters got out, when it's obvious that they are guilty," said one middle-aged shop assistant. "I don't think, though, that I am in direct danger personally. [Gang warfare] really only concerns people who have a reason to be afraid."
According to the Košice police, all the firebomb cases are under investigation. They have already identified certain suspects, but no details have been made public.
"We want to warn criminals that we will go after them. We know that there is a war being waged in the underworld," said Spišiak.
21. Oct 2002 at 0:00 | Zuzana Habšudová