Kuciak trial to start with preliminary hearing

Journalists from the world over expected to attend.

Alena Zsuzsová surrounded by journalistsAlena Zsuzsová surrounded by journalists (Source: AP/SITA)

Less than two years after the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, the preliminary hearings will be held in the case.

The Specialised Criminal Court in Pezinok senate, chaired by Judge Ružena Sabová, will launch the preliminary hearing in the case on December 19, the TASR newswire wrote. Judge Sabová also sentenced the underworld gang known as Piťovci and two ministers of the first government of Robert Fico, who received prison sentences over the infamous bulletin-board corruption scandal, TASR noted. She is known as a good and consistent judge, Sme daily noted.

The prosecutor of the Special Prosecutor’s Office filed criminal charges against Marian Kočner, Tomáš Szabó, Miroslav Marček and Alena Zsuzsová on October 21. The indictment concerns six crimes, including two first-degree murders. The accused are currently in custody.

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The investigators believe Kočner ordered the murder for €50,000 and paid an unknown sum later, when the killers found out that they had killed a journalist and his fiancée. Zsuzsová was his closest collaborator, and she is believed to have acted as the go-between who ordered the murder from Zoltán Andruskó.

The four persons indicted for the murder face 25 years in prison.

Andruskó started collaborating with the police shortly after he was detained, and he has already signed a plea bargain. His case will be heard on December 30, outside the trial with the four indicted people.

Szabó, who also admitted to his part in the murder in April 2019, is expected to request a plea bargain during the preliminary hearing, Sme wrote.

Kočner has been seen in court frequently. He has been attending another trial, in which he stands accused of having forged promissory notes worth €69 million.

What the preliminary hearing will be about

At the preliminary hearing, the court will read the indictment and will make sure that the proposed evidence is legal.

If the court finds serious procedural mistakes, it may return the indictment to the prosecutor. That would return the process to the preparatory stage.

If the court concludes that the indictment is ready to be heard, the senate will set the starting date of the main trial. That might take months, the Sme daily writes, noting that the case file is 25,000 pages long and the indictment itself is 93 pages. Judges now need to study the materials.

The Penal Order allows the court to hear the indicted persons during the preliminary hearing, the TASR newswire wrote. The court will also inquire both sides if they would prefer to agree on a guilt and punishment agreement - like the one that was closed in the case of Andruskó. Such eventuality is only possible if both parties agree with it.

The defence lawyers are expected to voice their reservations towards the investigation, which they have already announced they will have. They failed to specify what their objections will be, Sme wrote. The Kuciak family lawyer Daniel Lipšic says he is not aware of any mistakes in the murder investigation and does not expect the court to return the indictment to the prosecutors.

World media will attend

The Specialised Criminal Court reported unusual media interest in the case, with journalists from foreign media also in attendance. Journalists from the US, Germany, France, Czechia and Poland have requested an accreditation for the trial, the court told TASR.

That is also why the hearing will take place in the building of the Judicial Academy, located in Pezinok just like the Specialised Criminal Court.

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