Kuciak murder trial: What has happened so far

An overview of how the trial in the murder case has progressed.

Alena ZsuzsováAlena Zsuzsová (Source: SME)

>>> See the timeline of the investigation of the Kuciak and Kušnírová murders
>>> Read more about how the Kuciak case changed Slovakia

  • The main trial started on Monday, January 13, 2020
  • All four defendants and the prosecutor repeated that they were not interested in seeking a plea bargain. This was the outcome of the preliminary session of the trial that took place on December 19, 2019.
  • Zoltán Andruskó is the only one of the five people charged in connection with the murder who has cooperated with the investigators. He confessed to having passed the order from Alena Zsuzsová, a close collaborator of Marian Kočner, to the hitmen, Miroslav Marček and Tomáš Szabó. He cooperated with the police soon after he was detained in September 2018. As a result, he was able to close a deal on guilt and punishment with the prosecutor. The court approved the deal on December 30, 2019. Andruskó got 15 years in prison for his participation in the crime and became an important witness.
  • DAY 1 (January 13, 2020): Miroslav Marček pleaded guilty. He admitted to committing both the murder of Kuciak and Kušnírová, and the murder of Peter Molnár. Marian Kočner has admitted his guilt regarding the unauthorised possession of firearms, but said he was not guilty regarding the murder of Kuciak. Alena Zsuzsová said she was not guilty. Tomáš Szabó declined to make a statement about his guilt. Marček then described how they prepared and executed the murder, while his cousin Tomáš Szabó offered an alternative explanation. Szabó, Zsuzsová and Kočner refused to answer any questions. Zsuzsová described her relationship with Kočner as a very good friendship.
  • DAY 3 (January 15, 2020): Peter Tóth and Jozef Dučák testified. Tóth is a key witness of the prosecution. A onetime friend of Marian Kočner, Tóth came forward as a witness in the case on October 5, 2018, two days after Alena Zsuzsová was detained and charged with ordering the murder. "I haven't got the slightest doubt that these two people plotted and prepared the murder of Ján Kuciak," Peter Tóth told the court about Kočner and Zsuzsová. Tóth also claimed that Norbert Bödör, the son of the Bonul security service company Miroslav Bödör, contributed to the surveillance financially and with his contacts.

>>> READ THE PROFILE OF PETER TÓTH

  • DAY 4 (January 20, 2020): Norbert Bödör, Jaroslav Haščák and others testified. Bödör denied all the allegations that Tóth has voiced against him in his testimony. He denied any participation in the surveillance of journalists. His testimony is not in line with Kočner's leaked Threema messages. In connection with his testimony, lawyers of the bereaved families requested the court to admit the Threema messages as evidence in the trial. The senate has not decided about their request yet. Penta financial group partner Jaroslav Haščák admitted that Kočner (and Bödör) belonged among his wider circle of acquaintances. Haščák insisted in front of the court that he was now 100 percent sure the vulgar message, which suggested Kočner was working on eliminating an unnamed man, had nothing to do with Ján Kuciak. Two witnesses from the Báč golf resort confirmed Kočner indirectly owned the resort and that he used to meet there with a woman on a red mercedes, whom one of them identified as Alena Zsuzsová. Former classmate of Tomáš Szabó, Marian Sehnal, testified that he adjusted the gun for Szabó and Marček and even tried it with them outside Kolárovo. He has already been punished with three years of probation for that.

  • DAY 5 (January 21, 2020): The fifth day of the trial featured the colleagues of Ján Kuciak from the Aktuality.sk news website. All of them said that they believed Kočner was the ordering party of the murder of their colleague. “Ján Kuciak was a significant threat to his impunity and his business activities,” head of investigative reportin desk at Aktuality.sk Marek Vagovič said about Kočner. “I am 100 percent sure Marian Kočner ordered the murder.”

  • DAY 6 (January 22, 2020): The senate of the Specialised Criminal Court said that the communication from the Threema app found in a mobile phone of Marian Kočner was obtained in a legal way. Its chair Ružena Sabová, however, has not said whether and when they will allow its reading aloud during the trial in the murder case. Miroslav Kriak testified in the afternoon. He was one of the persons who conducted the illegal surveillance of journalists for Peter Tóth. The man he recruited to help him with the job, Štefan Mlynarčík, was also heard by the court. Both Kriak and Mlynarčík claimed they believed they were working for the state and that their assignment was linked with revealing drug-related crimes. They confirmed that the pictures that the police found in Kočner's possession and that they were shown in court were those that they took or included in the surveillance report.
    The court also ruled to deal with Miroslav Marček, who pleaded guilty on the first day of the trial, in a separate trial, and changed the type of custody for him.
  • DAY 7 (February 3, 2020): An expert in anthropological criminology, Oľga Petrusová, studied the video footage from February 15, 16, and 21, 2018. These are the dates the murderers were supposed to have scanned the area and later kill the couple in Veľká Mača. In one of her reports Petrusová said that the people in the camera footage from all three days were identical. However, she was not able to confirm 100 percent that the people in the video footage were Marček and Szabó. The expert compared videos and photos of Szabó and Marček in different positions made by investigators. Ballistic experts Róbert Varga, Miroslav Šimonič and Peter Minály excluded that Kušnírová would have defended herself against the murderers. Additionally, they said neither of the murdered was under the influence. The report read in court was written by all three.

  • DAY 8 (February 4, 2020): The mental condition of Alena Zsuzsová was not disclosed to the public. The media were sent away when psychologists and psychiatrists testified on her health. The indictment states said that Zsuzsová’s diagnoses have by no means reduced her ability to perceive what she was doing and therefore she is fully responsible for her acts.

  • DAY 9 (February 6, 2020): Slovak police officers, Europol staff and one Interpol expert were brought to court. One Europol forensic investigator extracted data from 12 devices, among them the phones and SIM cards of Zsuzsová and Kočner. The other one extracted data from other devices that the police seized during house searches, such as hard drives and computers. Media were not allowed to remain in the courtroom when hearing the Europol specialists. Zlatica Kušnírová, the mother of the murdered Martina, told journalists after the expert testimonies that Kočner had many questions. Questioning the authenticity of the data that Europol extracted from his phone is the core of his defence. He claims the messages might have been manipulated. Despite objections to the Slovak investigators cooperating with Europol, the court confirmed that it considered the cooperation legal and proper.

  • The trial will resume on March 18.

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