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SLOVAKIA: Slovak PM’s attacker charged with revenge murder

The interior minister says that the BBC has spread lies about Fico. Hate has increased in Slovakia after the attack.

Related: Attack on Fico I Opinion I Charges I Media statement I Who leads Slovakia when the PM cannot?

Peter Dlhopolec editor-in-chief

Courtesy of The Slovak Spectator [website: https://spectator.sme.sk]

di Emanuele G. - venerdì 17 maggio 2024 - 602 letture

On Thursday morning, police charged Juraj C., a 71-year-old man who fired five shots at Prime Minister and Smer party leader Robert Fico on Wednesday afternoon.

He shot Fico outside the cultural centre in Handlová, a town in western Slovakia, where the government was holding its meeting. The man got close to Fico without any problem.

Juraj C. from the town of Levice, southern Slovakia, has been charged with the crime of attempted revenge murder against a protected person as reported by TV Markíza. If convicted, he may face a life sentence. The assailant is currently being held in Nitra, in the western part of the country.

According to TV Markíza, Juraj C. is proud of what he committed on Wednesday. He allegedly stated that his sole objective was to inflict harm upon Fico, rather than killing him.

Furthermore, it has come to light on Thursday that Juraj C. was a member of the group that participated in the protest against Fico and his government in late April, specifically on April 24. The government held a meeting in the village of Dolná Krupá, Trnava Region. They arrived to support Ukraine and to express their opposition to Fico’s and his government’s stance on the conflict in Ukraine and the government’s intention to abolish the public broadcaster, RTVS, replacing it with a government-friendly medium.

They yelled, "Traitors." Another cry used by the small crowd was "Stop Fico."

Security Council meeting

On late Thursday morning, the Security Council and the government held their meetings.

Before their start, Finance Minister Ladislav Kamenický (Smer) blamed the media for the attack, citing critical stories about Fico’s government as the reason. Deputy speaker of parliament and MP Ľuboš Blaha (Smer), who often attacks the opposition, journalists, and the Slovak president on his social media, asked people who have been attacking Smer politicians for years for repentance.

""We are probably the biggest targets here, apart from Robert Fico," said Blaha after the Security Council meeting.

Interior Minister Matúš Šutaj Eštok (Hlas) accused the BBC of writing lies about PM Fico and his views, asking the service to fix the problem.

"Please, verify the information that you spread about Slovakia," the minister told a BBC journalist.

President Zuzana Čaputová and her successor, president-elect and Hlas party leader Peter Pellegrini, held a press briefing on Thursday morning.

"We are standing here together because we want to send out a signal of understanding in this tense situation. We are politicians who know what is most important for people, and that is calming the situation," said the president.

Pellegrini also called on political parties to stop or dampen the campaigns ahead of the European elections, which will take place in early June. Several political parties, including Smer and Progresívne Slovensko, confirmed that they would reduce their campaign activities.

Čaputová and Pellegrini both attended the Security Council meeting, too.

After the Security Council, Interior Minister Matúš Šutaj Eštok (Hlas) announced that there is only one version of events, and that the attack was politically motivated. Juraj C. acted as a lone wolf who became radicalised on the internet, the minister claimed. He attended anti-government protests and demonstrations during government meetings in Slovak regions, the minister also said. As the minister added, the attacker did not agree with the government’s decision to suspend military help for Ukraine from the armed forces, nor with the dismissal of Judicial Council head Ján Mazák and the cancellation of the Special Prosecutor’s Office.

The remaining information on the case is under embargo.

Still, Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák (Smer) responded to Juraj C.’s alleged link to the pro-Russian group Slovenskí Branci (Slovak Conscripts). He explained that Juraj C. met with the group in 2016. He asked them not to use weapons. He also recited his poems to them during the group’s event.

Hatred on the rise, Fico’s condition ’serious’

All risk groups will have enhanced protection, the interior minister added, promising that the police would investigate alleged threats received by Smer MP Richard Glück (he became infamous after he said in parliament that women should immediately report a rape), newly-elected Judicial Council chair Marcela Kosová (she supported the cancellation of the Special Prosecutor’s Office), as well as certain journalists.

During a press conference, Šutaj Eštok also criticised the leakage of the medical report on Prime Minister Fico’s health. Kaliňák (Smer) added that the PM only has a limited ability to communicate.

Pellegrini, Fico’s ally, visited Fico in hospital on Thursday afternoon. He said that Fico is exhausted.

"His condition continues to be serious," the president-elect said, noting that critical hours and days await the prime minister.

Meanwhile, the attack on Fico has led to another wave of hatred on the Internet. According to elv.ai, a firm that moderates online discussions, the toxicity of comments under the posts of 60 media outlets and public institutions increased up to 60 percent, compared to the worst day in the history of monitoring their profiles. They recorded a total of 71,818 comments on Wednesday, while the rate of hateful comments reached up to 21.62 percent.

"The attack on Prime Minister Fico increased hatred on social networks to a level we have not seen before," said elv.ai CEO Jakub Šuster. Fico attack (May 16, 2024) (8 photos)

Unanswered questions

After the May 15 attack, several questions have been raised about the prime minister’s security, including whether special agents monitored the crowd outside the cultural centre in Handlová to identify a potential threat, and whether Fico’s earlier claim about a potential attack on a coalition potential was properly investigated.

"Apparently chaos reigned there, and that’s not good," former police chief Štefan Hamran told the Denník N daily. "I don’t understand why the security guards were still hanging around and running towards the attacker. There were police officers [to handle him]."

But according to the interior minister, the security situation and measures at the meeting in Handlová were at the maximum possible level. Stricter measures were adopted only at the recent meeting of the Slovak and Ukrainian governments in Michalovce, Šutaj Eštok noted.

The office that protects government officials has been headed by Pavol Krejčí, chair of the Slovak Judo Association and Hlas party official, since November 2023, when the Fico government had already been in power for several weeks. Hlas is one of the two parties in the coalition with Fico’s Smer party.

"They could practice this situation a thousand times, it’s different on the ground," Economy Minister and former interior minister Denisa Saková (Hlas) said about the men supposed to protect the premier.

Meanwhile, the police inspectorate, which deals with police officers who violate regulations, announced on May 16 that it has initiated an investigation into the police’s handling of the Wednesday attack, including a leaked video that features the detained attacker at the police station.

When asked if he was going to resign, the interior minister said that he is not glued to the ministerial chair.

"I’m thinking about guaranteeing the safety of all citizens, constitutional officials, and the media," he said.

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