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Protest filled squares in Bratislava and Humenné

Thousands of people gathered again at the For a Decent Slovakia rallies, demanding the deposition of Police President Tibor Gašpar. The new Prime Minister defends him.

Murder of Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová drew thousands to the squares(Source: Sme - Jozef Jakubčo)

More than 30,000 people gathered in SNP Square in Bratislava on the afternoon of April 15 for the latest For a Decent Slovakia protest, calling for the dismissal of Police Corps President Tibor Gašpar and Special Prosecutor Dušan Kováčik.

This demand was repeated several times by the rally speakers who stated that this is the first and essential change required to restore the public’s trust in the state and its institutions, as reported by the TASR newswire. They lambasted Gašpar and Kováčik, claiming that the police and Special Prosecutor’s Office, under their leadership, have been ignoring corruption scandals for a long time. They also criticised Gašpar for the course of the investigation into the murders of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová and for the escape of convicted eastern-Slovak underworld boss Robert Okoličány.

Additional demands concerned the independence of police inspection, as well as changes in the way in which the Police Corps senior officials and the special prosecutor are selected.

Who were the speakers and what did they demand?

At the Bratislava rally Judicial Council member Pavol Žilinčík listed the necessary changes in the police, prosecutorial and court authorities. University professor Vladimír Krčméry in his speech praised the fact that those who have joined the For a Decent Slovakia initiative have managed to achieve considerable changes in a calm and non-violent manner and within a short time.

Journalist Marián Leško also addressed the rally, as did farmer František Oravec from the village of Gyňov in eastern Slovakia who repeated what he said at the protest rally in Košice on April 5. He talked about the intimidation of farmers in eastern Slovakia and fraud in farm subsidies. Actors from the Slovak National Theater, Táňa Pauhofová and Richard Stanke, gave speeches as well. (The Slovak National Theater manager postponed the start of evening performances so that the actors – including Lukáš Latinák – could partiicpate.) Journalist Eugen Korda called for the dismissal of Gašpar.

The two-hour event took place in a peaceful atmosphere, with no incidents reported.

As well as in Bratislava, another For a Decent Slovakia rally took place in the town of Humenné (in Prešov Region) in eastern Slovakia. The organisers wanted to express unity across all Slovak regions from the west to the east of the country in this way.

An estimated 1,000 people arrived for the April 15 afternoon protest. There, apart from the musical programme, a letter from activist-filmmaker and revolutionary from the 1989 Velvet Revolution, Fedor Gál, was read, as well as that of musician/composer Peter Breiner who lives in the USA and the speakers included Betka Bojková, organiser of the Košice protest, famer Marián Mičko – complaining about the hardships of doing business in agriculture – Patrik Magdoško of the Občianska Iniciatíva Zemplína (Civic Initiative of the Zemplín region), actor Daniel Žulčák.

The protest in Humenné was attended also by Zlatica Kušnírová, the mother of murdered Martina Kušnírová.

Politician’s reactions

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini criticised the protests’ organizers for refusing to meet with Drucker. The organisers argue, as quoted by Sme, that refusing Drucker is not an impolite ultimatum but rather a clear stance stemming from the new interior minister promising to revive the people’s trust in state power and the police.

Pellegrini also defended Gašpar and added he considers him a top professional.

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