Death behind bars triggers conspiracies, politicians carry some blame too

The example of the US shows that no country, including Slovakia, is immune from conspiracy-driven protests turning into violence.

Justice Minister Mária Kolíková and head of the Prison and Court Guard Service who resigned, at the press conference on December 30.Justice Minister Mária Kolíková and head of the Prison and Court Guard Service who resigned, at the press conference on December 30. (Source: TASR)

A violent beating behind bars, severe injuries not mentioned in the medical report, various theories about the impossibility of committing suicide how the former police chief did in his prison cell.

Several such baseless claims were floated on social networks after the death of former Police Corps president Milan Lučanský in late December, on disinformation websites as well as some regular media, resulting in growing anger among the Slovak online population. This had some observers worried about how far sentiments could escalate, particularly ahead of the planned funeral of the former police boss on January 8.

While Justice Minister Mária Kolíková (Za Ľudí), the management of the prison guards and the police, took numerous efforts to answer the questions that emerged on the internet after Lučanský death, opposition parties were quick to bring up more questions. Some did not refrain from supporting the conspiracy narratives. Smer leader Robert Fico, for instance, wrote on Facebook that Lučanský died under “mysterious circumstances as an innocent person with a huge credit in the fight against the most serious criminality.”

“It is a political fight and politicians like to ride the tide of public opinion because these waves can take them high without much effort,” political analyst Michal Cirner from Prešov University told The Slovak Spectator. “In a certain sense, it is sponging on what public opinion wants and goading to decrease support for the government.”

Imitating All for Jan

Political analysts agree it is hardly surprising that opposition parties either do not dismiss or directly support the conspiracy narrative.

Lučanský committed suicide in pretrial custody, where he was placed on charges of corruption. According to the charges, he was accused of accepting bribes of €510,000. Lučanský denied all the allegations, and his death put an end to the criminal prosecution in his case. This means that there will never be a public court verdict to determine whether he was innocent or guilty.

The charges against Lučanský were part of a series of charges faced by several former high ranking police officials and judges, who served under the previous governments of Smer.

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