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Man imprisoned for 1976 murder is freed

THE LAST remaining convicted murderer of medical student Ľudmila Cervanová, Milan Andrášik, was conditionally released from prison after serving two-thirds of his prison sentence, the Sme daily reported.

THE LAST remaining convicted murderer of medical student Ľudmila Cervanová, Milan Andrášik, was conditionally released from prison after serving two-thirds of his prison sentence, the Sme daily reported.

The Cervanová case began 33 years ago and is among the longest and perhaps most controversial and complicated court cases the country has ever witnessed.

Slovakia’s Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that seven young men from Nitra, Juraj Lachman, František Čerman, Stanislav Dúbravický, Pavol Beďač, and the two primary perpetrators – Miloš Kocúr and Milan Andrášik – had kidnapped the 19-year old student from a Bratislava disco on July 9, 1976 and then raped and murdered her. All seven suspects were arrested in 1981 and a year later the Bratislava Regional Court found them guilty and meted out sentences from four years to 24 years in prison. Originally, the prosecution had requested death sentences for four of the accused.

Written testimonies of almost 320 witnesses concerning the events at the disco were found in the national police archives in Levoča. None of the statements mentioned that any of the convicted men had been present at the disco and apparently these statements were not taken into consideration during the hearings in the Bratislava Regional Court, and later in the Supreme Court.

The case was opened again after the fall of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovak General Prosecutor, Tibor Böhm, appealed to the Czechoslovak Supreme Court, saying that the rights of the convicted men had been violated because not all means of proving or disproving their guilt had been used in the court process. In effect, the Czechoslovak Supreme Court cancelled the original sentences and returned the case to the Slovak courts. Those who were still in prison were released.

Andrášik and Kocúr were returned to prison in 2006 when the Slovak Supreme Court confirmed the original ruling and sentenced them to 15 years in prison. The other men were given prison sentences from three to 12 years but were not returned to prison because they already have served those years.

“It's a good thing for the accused that Slovakia no longer had the death penalty,” said the chairman of the Supreme Court’s senate, Štefan Michálik, who was convinced of their guilt.

Kocúr was conditionally released from prison by the Trnava Regional Court in January 2009. Both felons had made several previously unsuccessful requests to be released. This month Andrášik was ordered released by a Nitra District Court.

The convicted men say their case was manipulated by the communist regime in the 1980s. They originally confessed to the crime in a 1982 court hearing, saying that they had gotten the student drunk and they then raped her. But later they withdrew their statements, saying they were not guilty and had been forced to confess to the crime and had been mentally and physically tortured in prison.

The forensic expert who had prepared the official report, Peter Fiala, told the Sme daily on October 17, 2009 that there was no clear evidence that Cervanová had been raped or was drunk.

Slovak media reported in 2008 that a police expert from the United States, Robert Edward Lee, said the four of the convicted men who had undergone polygraph tests in 2007, were innocent. At that time Andrášik and Kocúr did not take the polygraph tests because they were incarcerated in Leopoldov prison and the prison’s director refused their request to have the polygraph tests.

Polygraph tests, however, are not admissible as evidence in trials in Slovakia. The president of the Slovak Supreme Court, Milan Karabín, said at that time that he did not consider the results of the polygraph tests to be legally relevant evidence.

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