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article imageSlovak police chief quits amid row over journalist murder

By AFP     Apr 17, 2018 in World

Slovakia's controversial police chief announced his resignation Tuesday, as the murder of an investigative journalist -- which already toppled the government last month -- continues to make political waves in the small EU country.

Slovakia has been plunged into political crisis since journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee were found shot dead in February.

Kuciak had been probing alleged ties between top politicians and the Italian mafia.

Tens of thousands of protestors have repeatedly taken to the streets in the wake of the murder, forcing a successive string of officials and politicians to step down.

Interior minister Robert Kalinak resigned in March, and the pressure from the protests eventually forced Prime Minister Robert Fico and his entire cabinet to quit last month as well.

Kalinak's successor as interior minister Tomas Drucker resigned on Monday.

And police chief Tibor Gaspar -- who had been refusing to quit for several weeks -- also finally threw in the towel on Tuesday. He is to step down at the end of May.

Critics had argued that Gaspar's alleged political connections prevented a fair investigation into Kuciak's murder.

Announcing his decision in Bratislava, Gaspar told reporters that his "resignation would finally allow the police corps to function without being attacked."

Even though the left-wing populist Fico has been replaced as premier by Peter Pellegrini, analysts believe that it is the former PM who continues to pull the strings, as he remains chairman of the governing Smer-SD party.

Bratislava-based political analyst Grigorij Meseznikov suggested that Gaspar was only leaving at the end of next month because "Fico needs him in this position" for a while longer.

"Gaspar must help maintain the selective justice in cases that could potentially harm Smer-SD party," the analyst told AFP.

The murder and Kuciak's article, published afterwards, raised fresh concern about media freedom and corruption in Slovakia, an EU member state of 5.4 million people.

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