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Businessman charged over Slovak journalist's death as US human rights report names killed journalists

Media Attacks

A Slovak businessman has been charged with the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee.

Local media have named the suspect as Marian Kocner, who had been a subject of Kuciak’s reporting, according to Reuters.

It comes a day after the US State Department, concerned with foreign affairs, named Kuciak (pictured, top right) and murdered journalists Jamal Khashoggi and Daphne Caruana Galizia in its latest global human rights report.

Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova, both 27, were found dead with gunshot wounds at their home in February last year.

Slovak Police said they suspected the killings were connected to Kuciak’s work, which centered on stories of tax fraud and real estate deals.

The report on human rights practices also mentioned that a colleague of Kuciak’s, journalist Pavla Holcova, had her mobile phone seized by police in May last year.

The authorities claim to have seized the phone as part of an investigation into the killings of Kuciak and his fiancée, but Holcova alleged they may have tried to access her phone illegally, according to the report.

The US State Department also noted the death of Washington Post columnist and Saudi regime critic Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on 2 October last year.

Saudi Arabia has charged 11 people with his murder and is seeking the death penalty for five of them. Khashoggi’s body has still not been recovered.

The report did not link Khashoggi’s death to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite an assessment by the US Central Intelligence Agency in November that concluded he had ordered the journalist’s assassination.

The regime, which made several changes to its story about what happened at the consulate, has denied bin Salman was involved in the killing.

The US State Department recognised that “Government agents” killed Khashoggi, but went no further. It said Saudi King Salman had “pledged to hold all individuals involved accountable, regardless of position or rank”.

President Donald Trump has been criticised for his failure to take action against Saudi Arabia over the killing, while Labour has also put pressure on the UK Government for details on progress in the Khashoggi case.

At a press briefing on the report, held yesterday, Ambassador Michael Kozak was asked if it was “pulling any punches” in its failure to mention Bin Salman in the section on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

He said the US believed those responsible for the killing “should be held to account”, but did not criticise the Saudi Crown Prince, saying the US State Department wanted the report to be “fact-driven rather than opinion-driven”.

He described the killing of Khashoggi as a “horrific” and “horrendous” act.

The New York Times reported last month that Bin Salman had told an aide he would come for Khashoggi “with a bullet” if he did not end his criticism of the Saudi regime. The comment was reportedly made a year before Khashoggi was killed.

In its section on Malta, the US report noted that an independent blogger had filed a court application against the country’s officials accusing them of breaching the European Convention on Human Rights by ordering memorials to Caruana Galizia to be removed.

Galizia was repeatedly subject to threats over her investigative work uncovering corruption in Maltese politics before she was killed in 2017 in a car bomb.

Not mentioned in the report was the death of Bulgarian TV journalist Victoria Marinova last year, who was listed as one of 80 journalists killed worldwide as a result of their work in 2018.

Picture: AP Photo, Hasan Jamali/Reporters without Borders/AP Photo, Jon Borg

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