Justice got another chance in the Kuciak case (reactions)

Bereaved families, journalists and society in general hope for a well-reasoned and just verdict.

Marian Kocner at the Supreme Court on June 15, 2021. Marian Kocner at the Supreme Court on June 15, 2021. (Source: TASR)

The Supreme Court has returned the case of the 2018 murder of investigative reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová to the first instance court.

The senate of the Supreme Court, chaired by Judge Peter Paluda, overturned the verdict of the Specialised Criminal Court from September last year that proclaimed the suspected masterminds of the murder, Alena Zsuzsová and Marian Kočner, not guilty in the case.

The court of appeals stated that the lower instance court did not take into account all the evidence in context and failed to provide sufficient reasoning for its verdict.

Here are some reactions to the latest verdict:

For a Decent Slovakia initiative

The initiative that organised mass protests following the murder, leading to the fall of the then government of Robert Fico, believes that those who ordered the murder will be proven guilty beyond doubt and convicted of the crime.

"Thanks to this decision, and even though this process will last for more months, we believe that those who ordered the murder will, in the end, be unambiguously proven guilty and convicted," the initiative wrote.

Journalists react

Sme daily Editor-in-Chief Beata Balogová, who is also a member of the board of the International Press Institute, wrote that justice for Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová needed another chance, and the Supreme Court has granted it today.

"Thanks to the decision we heard today, judges of the Specialised Criminal Court will have the possibility to consider further evidence that the prosecutor and the investigators used to build the story of the murder," Balogová wrote. It will be important that the court explains why it had previously rejected some evidence.

"This society owes Ján and Martina justice without doubts and errors, without calculations," she wrote.

The editor-in-chief of the Aktuality.sk news website, which Kuciak worked for before he was killed, Peter Bardy, wrote on his Facebook page that the process is not over. "Justice and our hope have not lost today!"

International Press Institute (IPI) Deputy Director Scott Griffen welcomed the ruling as bringin new hope.

“The Specialised Criminal Court now has a clear task: it must exhaustively consider all evidence and the full circumstances of this case. The deficiences in the ruling identifed by the Supreme Court must be addressed and the logic of the original ruling scrutinised,” Griffen stated.

IPI and its partners "will not rest until rest until justice has been secured and all those involved in the murder of Ján and Martina are convicted and sentenced", he added.

Politicians react

The suffering of the parents and relatives of Ján and Martina after the decision of the Supreme Court is not over yet, but they are a step closer to justice, commented President Zuzana Čaputová.

“Ján Kuciak pointed to the cynicism of powerful people, and he and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová paid with their lives,” Čaputová wrote on Facebook. “Therefore, the public’s trust in the state and its institutions will depend on the investigation of their murder and the punishment of all its perpetrators. The Supreme Court has taken a very important step in restoring trust in the judiciary.”

Juraj Šeliga, who stood behind the For a Decent Slovakia initiative in 2018 and has since joined the Za Ľudí party and serves as its MP, noted that the Specialised Criminal Court will now need to provide better and more understandable reasoning behind its decision and come to terms with the shortcomings pointed out by the Supreme Court.

"We must call for justice for Ján and Martina until the end!" Šeliga wrote.

The ruling OĽaNO party sees the Supreme Court's decision as a fundamental step towards a just ending of the case.

"Today's decision of the Supreme Court brings hope that the supposed masterminds of the murder will not escape justice," said OĽaNO MP and head of the parliamentary committee for culture and media, Kristián Čekovský.

"This decision is all the more important seeing as we are currently witnessing attempts to overturn the arrival of justice through questioning the work of the police, the prosecution service, and the judiciary," Čekovský stated, as quoted by the Sme daily. "Today will thus help to return the citizens' trust in justice and rule of law."

The opposition Hlas party acknowledged how the legal opinion of the Supreme Court differs compared to the Specialised Criminal Court.

"We will closely observe the development of this case until its very end," Hlas stated. "It is necessary that this particularly sensitive case does not leave any doubt after the definitive verdict of the court."

The non-parliamentary party Spolu welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court.

"It is immensely important for the families of the innocent victims, as well as for the whole country and our joint trust in the judiciary and the rule of law, to make sure that justice is delivered in this case, not just to those who committed the murder but mainly those who ordered it," Spolu Chair Juraj Hipš stated.

The party's MEP Vladimír Bilčík noted that the entire European Union has been following the case. The European Parliament's Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group has been observing the situation with the rule of law and justice in Slovakia, and its permanent mission will visit Slovakia this autumn to ask questions about the ongoing reforms in the judiciary and the investigation of the double murder.

"Our democratic partners realise how damaging the fear for their own safety and life is for the free work of journalists," the MEP stated.

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