Charged Slovak ex-PM avoids arrest and pre-trial custody

Lawmakers rejected request for the arrest of former PM Robert Fico.

The charged ex-PM Robert Fico (Smer) cannot be arrested, the parliament decided in a vote on May 4, 2022.The charged ex-PM Robert Fico (Smer) cannot be arrested, the parliament decided in a vote on May 4, 2022. (Source: TASR)

The charged ex-prime minister and MP Robert Fico of the former ruling party Smer will avoid pre-trial custody.

The parliament did not support a request submitted by the General Prosecutor’s Office, where it asks for approval to arrest Fico, on Wednesday, May 4. During the vote, 74 lawmakers backed the request.

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Fico has been charged with the crime of a threat in relation to a trade secret, bank secrecy, secrecy of correspondence, telecommunications secrecy, and tax secrecy. He is also accused of establishing and supporting an organised crime group and abuse of power by a public official. However, unlike the charged and arrested former interior minister Robert Kaliňák of the Smer party, who does not serve as MP, approval for Fico’s arrest was needed.

Read also: The “end of democracy”, according to Fico Read more 

Last week, on April 27, the Mandate and Immunity Parliamentary Committee recommended to greenlight the request from the General Prosecutor’s Office. Yet, it was not clear until the last moment how the final vote in the parliament, preceded by a debate lasting several days, would turn out in the end.

The consent of an absolute majority of the lawmakers present was required to permit the arrest of the Smer chair. All 150 MPs were present during the Wednesday vote, which does not happen often. Hence, 76 votes were needed for the request to be passed.

Unlike its coalition partners who voted for the request, Sme Rodina, one of the coalition parties, abstained from the vote. Two MPs from the major ruling party OĽaNO did not vote or abstained from voting. Economy Minister Richard Sulík of the coalition party SaS said that the vote was “the biggest defeat” in the political career of OĽaNO chair and Finance Minister Igor Matovič, who has long fought against Fico in politics.

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Read also: Fico's detention may be moot by the time parliament makes a decision Read more 

While most of the coalition is disappointed regarding the outcome of the vote, the opposition believes the desire for political revenge has lost in parliament.

Even if the parliament had given its consent to the arrest, a court would have had to decide on taking Fico into pre-trial custody.

Experts said earlier that pre-trial custody would not harm the former prime minister, nor his party.

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