Good evening. The Monday, September 20, 2021 edition of Today in Slovakia is ready with the main news of the day in less than five minutes. We wish you a pleasant read.
Ex-special prosecutor sentenced to 14 years
Former special prosecutor Dušan Kováčik has become the first high-ranking official serving during the era of Smer-led governments to receive a guilty verdict on corruption charges.
On September 20 the judge of the Specialised Criminal Court sentenced him to 14 years in prison for several crimes, such as accepting a bribe, cooperating with an organised crime group, and exploiting his powers. His property will also be forfeited.
Kováčik had been denying the charges from the very beginning, and even casting doubt on some testimonies, questioning the reliability of so-called cooperating defendants. He reiterated his doubt in his three-hour closing speech delivered on September 17.
Judge Pamela Záleská accepted these testimonies as relevant evidence.
The verdict is not valid yet because Kováčik appealed against it.
Denník N journalists accused
Earlier on Monday, several media outlets reported on charges against two journalists of the Denník N daily, Monika Tódová and Konštantín Čikovský, who are said to have revealed confidential and reserved information. If found guilty, they may spend one year in prison.
The charges concern the October 2018 report on how former journalist-turned-spy Peter Tóth admitted to the police that he was monitoring several journalists for mobster Marián Kočner, including Ján Kuciak, who was murdered in February of that year along with his fiancée.
At the time, it was not clear that Tóth would take the witness stand, and the daily wrote that he had been acting as a secret witness.
By revealing his identity and publishing the information, the journalists could have put him in danger, according to the charges.
The charges, based on an earlier criminal complaint submitted by Tóth, have been criticised by several politicians and non-governmental organisations, who called it an unprecedented and unacceptable step. Tódová herself pointed to the timing, and said that the charges came after a series of critical reports on the prosecution service.
The General Prosecutor’s Office meanwhile ordered the regional prosecutor in Bratislava to look into the decision on laying the charges issued by the Bratislava prosecutor's office.
Coronavirus and vaccination developments
- 114 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 1,981 PCR tests performed on September 19. The number of people in hospitals has increased to 389 people. The vaccination rate is at 44 percent, 2,420,272 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
- Altogether four districts are now in the dark red tier, with rules for people not fully vaccinated being quite restrictive. Another 27 districts are in the red tier, 44 districts are in the orange tier, and only four in the green tier with the least strict rules. Check out the restrictions currently in place according to the alert system, known as the Covid automat.
- The Delta variant has been confirmed in nearly 99 percent of 1,085 positive samples sequenced in August. The variant was identified in 1,073 samples, while the Alpha variant was confirmed in 11 samples, and one sample contained another variant.
- Prešov Greek-Catholic Archeparch Ján Babjak tested positive for Covid. He was infected during last week’s visit of Pope Francis, after being in touch with a bishop from Greece who was positive. (TVnoviny.sk)
- Passengers using public transport in Bratislava will no longer have to push the button for opening the doors; they will be automatically opened by the drivers. This is a response to the worsening epidemic situation in the capital, according to Dopravný Podnik Bratislava (DPB).
Spain put Slovakia on its list of high-risk countries on Sunday, September 19. This means that incomers have to show a negative Covid test, a certificate of vaccination or a confirmation of recovery from the disease when crossing the borders.
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Picture of the day
Peter Sagan became the overall winner of the Around Slovakia race, stretching over 700 kilometres and held between September 15 and 19. He triumphed although he did not win any of the five stages.
Feature story for today
The use of artificial intelligence can be quite broad in scope. AI can, for example, simplify and specify the evaluation of x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scans to improve the quality of health treatment by increasing the number of medical procedures and early diagnostics, which prevents chronic diseases and unburdens diagnosticians.
The AIslovakIA national platform for the development of AI aims to create space for the cooperation of academia, businesses, the state, international institutions and individuals to fully develop the potential of AI, not only in Slovakia. Apart from health care, the platform provides solutions to industry, helping companies to increase their competitiveness while spreading awareness and educating people on AI-related topics.
In other news
- Civil Liberties Committee MEPs will travel to Slovakia on September 21-22 to assess respect for the rule of law there, as part of their ongoing monitoring of the situation across the EU.
- Finance Minister Igor Matovič and PM Eduard Heger (both OĽaNO) have admitted that there could be a coalition without the Sme Rodina party if they block their efforts to fight organised crime and restore trust in the rule of law. Another alternative, according to Matovič, is to strip the party of its right to choose the director of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency. The coalition council is set to discuss the current situation in security forces and the prosecution service on Monday.
- Smer chair Robert Fico has called on the representatives of Hlas to start talks about potential pre-election and post-election cooperation. Hlas was created by the renegades of Smer, led by Peter Pellegrini.
It is our joint duty to immediately start a debate on the form of pre-election and post-election cooperation that will secure that a natural block of Smer and Hlas, either as one party or a coalition, will be able to achieve a result of 35-40 percent.”„
- People in Slovakia trust General Prosecutor Maroš Žilinka more than Special Prosecutor Daniel Lipšic and Interior Minister Roman Mikulec (OĽaNO). According to a poll carried out by the Focus agency for private broadcaster TV Markíza between September 1 and 7 on 1,002 respondents, 42 percent trust Žilinka, while 29 percent trust Lipšic and 24 Mikulec.
- The General Prosecutor’s Office forbade Special Prosecutor Lipšic to attend interdepartmental activities held outside the prosecutor’s office, including a working group of the Security Council. Lipšic faces disciplinary motion for his statements in a corruption-related case.
- Štefan Hamran has officially become an interim Police Corps president. He will replace Peter Kovařík, who announced his decision to resign from the post in late August. The new police chief will be chosen in a selection procedure.
- Slovaks travelled mostly to Turkey and Greece during this year’s summer season. There was also interest in Spain, Cyprus, Italy, Bulgaria and Croatia, according to the Slovak Association of Travel Agencies.
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20. Sep 2021 at 18:45 | Radka Minarechová