FIVE years have passed since Hedviga Malinová, an ethnic-Hungarian Slovak citizen, reported that she was assaulted on her way to an exam at her university in Nitra on August 25, 2006. Since then, her case has become notoriously controversial and some observers say that it reflects malfunctions in the Slovak justice system. It is also considered as a thorn in relations between Slovakia and Hungary – a matter of concern expressed by US diplomats in documents recently published by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
Slovak society has been divided over what happened to Hedviga Malinová since she reported to police that she had been attacked and suggested it might have been because she was heard speaking Hungarian. The police say their investigation into the case involved over 250 officers and interviews with 600 people, and led them to conclude that an assault never occurred.
The police findings were released on September 12, 2006, at a press conference by then interior minister Robert Kaliňák and then prime minister Robert Fico, with Kaliňák stating “it is beyond doubt that the case did not happen”. He presented several pieces of alleged evidence, including DNA samples, to support his assertion.
Lawyer accuses prosecutors of bias
Malinová, who has since married and is called Žáková, was then charged in May 2007 with perjury and making false claims. However, the charges have never been laid before a court and after more than four years the case remains pending with the General Prosecutor’s Office.
Malinová’s lawyer, Roman Kvasnica, said on August 24, 2011 that he thinks that nobody will ever properly investigate who attacked his client. “The state of the affair clearly shows that since 2006, when the attack on Hedviga Malinová happened, the Slovak state bodies have absolutely failed,” he said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
Kvasnica recently filed an action against several prosecutors, including former general prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka and his subordinates, claiming that they have been biased in their handling of the Malinová case. He stated that there are close ties among the prosecutors that jeopardise the prosecution of those responsible. He further claimed that Trnka is not independent from political influence, the Sme daily reported.
Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic also recently conceded that it is unlikely that the public will learn the truth about what happened to Malinová.
“The problem is that from the beginning it was politicised and then it gets hard to look for the truth, especially after some time has passed,” Lipšic said, as quoted by TASR, adding that it is up to the General Prosecutor’s Office to now close the case, as it has promised to do several times.
Meanwhile, the fifth anniversary coincided with the August 26 publication by WikiLeaks of diplomatic cables from the US Embassy in Bratislava to Washington regarding the case.
“The alleged skinhead attack on an ethnic-Hungarian university student in Nitra in August might have happened after all,” the embassy wrote in a cable on October 6, 2006, nearly a month after Malinová was accused of lying. The embassy referred to “a contact with ties to the Ministry of the Interior' as the source of its information.
“The young woman may have received a light beating but then tried to make her injuries appear worse than they actually were because she believed that a few punches were 'not enough' to make her case to the police,” the Embassy wrote, giving the explanation it said it had received from the source.
Cables spotlight ethnic Hungarian concerns
The US Embassy in Bratislava sent several cables to Washington on the issue of Slovak-Hungarian relations after Robert Fico’s Smer party came to power in the 2006 election and invited the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS) to join the ruling coalition, a step that was widely criticised by the international community at that time because of SNS leader Ján Slota’s previous xenophobic and racist statements.
“Embassy contacts contend that the vast majority of Slovakia’s ethnic Hungarians are dissatisfied and disappointed with the ruling coalition, mainly due to the presence of SNS,” a cable dated August 21, 2006, stated, suggesting that there were already ominous signs regarding future Slovak-Hungarian tension.
“The very names of Mečiar and especially of Slota carry with them very negative associations, as the general point of view within the Hungarian community is that the latter did all he could to destroy Hungarian-language education and Hungarian cultural life during the 1990s.”
The embassy also noted in its comments that with Slovakia being a member in 2006 of NATO, the EU and OSCE, and having adopted a number of new legal frameworks to protect minority rights, that it would be unlikely that Robert Fico’s term would resemble the Mečiar years in the 1990s.
“Nonetheless, ethnic Hungarians worry that the government will find ways to curtail minority life through more clandestine measures, such as decreases in funding for education, cultural activities, and municipalities with Hungarian population,” the cable stated.
5. Sep 2011 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani