Slovak court paves way for prosecutions over 1995 abduction of president's son

Reuters News
Posted: May 31, 2017 11:19 AM

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia's constitutional court on Wednesday upheld parliament's decision to cancel amnesties granted by former prime minister Vladimir Meciar to his secret service chief and 12 others over the 1995 kidnapping of the son of the then president, Michal Kovac.

The ruling paves the way for prosecution to resume where it was halted 19 years ago. Police had charged 13 people in the case but it was stopped by the amnesties.

Meciar has denied any responsibility for the kidnapping.

A court will now decide on a trial date, or request further investigation.

Many Slovaks have seen the pardons as a symbol of Slovakia's slide away from democratic rule under Meciar.

Some politicians, including leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico - who had Meciar as a junior coalition partner in his first government in 2006-2010 - have condemned the amnesties but long insisted they could not be revoked.

Fico made a U-turn in March when an opinion poll showed 63 percent of Slovaks wanted the amnesties canceled.


A movie based on the kidnapping of former president Kovac's son - also named Michal - has become one of the most popular Slovak films ever.

When the older Kovac died last October, current President Andrej Kiska urged lawmakers to cancel the amnesties.

Kovac had been a symbol of resistance to Meciar, under whose rule Slovakia was denied an initial invitation to join the EU and NATO along with its central European post-communist neighbors.

Madeleine Albright, then the U.S. Secretary of State, called the country "the black hole of Europe".

When Meciar was interim president after Kovac's term expired in 1998, he granted the amnesties preventing prosecution of the 13, including his close ally Ivan Lexa, who was head of the country's secret service. Kovac's son had been abducted, taken into Austria, and dumped outside a police station where he was found after several hours.

A secret service agent who gave evidence about the case fled abroad fearing for his life. A friend who helped him escape died when his car was blown up in 1996.

(Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Andrew Bolton)