Slovaks want joint team with Italy for slain reporter probe

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s prosecutor general asked Italian authorities on Monday to create a joint team with Slovakia to investigate the slayings of a journalist and his fiancee that have triggered a serious political crisis.

Jaromir Ciznar said in a statement that he expects such a team’s investigation into the slayings of reporter Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova would be faster, more sophisticated and more effective.

Before he was slain on Feb. 25, Kuciak was reporting on alleged Italian mafia ties to associates of then-Prime Minister Robert Fico and corruption scandals linked to Fico’s leftist Smer Social Democracy party.

The Slovaks have previously said that the FBI, Britain’s Scotland Yard, Europol and police forces from Italy and the Czech Republic were helping with the investigation. But the request Monday seemed to ask for greater involvement from Italian authorities, who presumably have more expertise than the Slovaks on Italian mafia organizations.

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters rallied across Slovakia on Friday to demand an early election a day after Fico’s government resigned over the slayings.

Fico’s deputy prime minister and deputy chairman in his party, Peter Pellegrini, on Monday handed Slovak President Andrej Kiska a proposal for a new government. It is formed by the same three parties that were in the previous government — with the Most-Hid party representing ethnic Hungarians and the ultranationalist Slovak National Party.

The coalition has a majority in the 150-seat Parliament, holding 79 seats.

Protesters accusing Fico’s government of corruption have demanded a thorough, independent investigation into the two slayings. In an apparent concession to them, Pellegrini on Monday proposed a candidate for interior minister, Jozef Balaz, who is not affiliated with any political party.

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