Monday 23 April 2018

Slovakia interior minister quits amid row over journalist's murder

Slovakia interior minister quits amid row over journalist's murder
(AFP 04/23/18)

Slovak new Interior Minister Tomas Drucker resigned Monday after resisting public demand to sack the chief of police following an investigative journalist's murder.

Tens of thousands of street protesters have repeatedly demanded that national police chief Tibor Gaspar step down over concerns that political connections are preventing a fair investigation into the murder of the journalist probing corruption.

"Gaspar polarises society... If I had wanted to oust him, nobody would have prevented me from doing so. I did not find any evidence based on which I should have ousted him," Drucker told reporters.

"I have decided to resign as interior minister and thus create space for another person to deal with this question," he added.

"It has been uncomfortable to decide under pressure. For me personal integrity was more important than my position."

Drucker was appointed late last month after former premier Robert Fico and his cabinet resigned amid a wave of street protests following the February murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova.

Drucker's predecessor Robert Kalinak had already resigned in the wake of the murder.

Police said that Kuciak's death was "most likely" related to his investigation of ties between politicians and the Italian mafia.

The new government appointed last month retains most of the same people from the previous administration.

Analysts believe Fico will continue to call the shots from behind the scenes as he remains chairman of the governing Smer-SD party.

Bratislava-based political analyst Pavol Babos does not believe Drucker's resignation will calm the situation, as "it is Tibor Gaspar's resignation that Slovak society is calling for."

"Drucker is merely buying time for the ruling coalition as the Pellegrini-led government will now look for someone to replace him and the new interior minister will again ask for some time to look into Gaspar's work before deciding on his fate."

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